Watching the double feature of Destiny and Flesh and Fantasy (both 1944) is both exhilarating and frustrating. Eddie Muller introduced both films last Sunday, telling us what was intended with them, what could’ve been, and what actually happened. You can read more about how these two films were originally conceived by director Julien Duvivier as one anthology film.
Muller seemed to hold out a tiny sliver of promise that Universal might someday restore the films to Duvivier’s original vision, but don’t hold your breath.
Later in the day, Muller surprised (hopefully) no one when he commented that 3D movies were not invented by James Cameron! They were, however, part of a serious attempt in the early 1950s to get people away from their TV sets and into movie theaters. 3D technology is not the only aspect of Inferno (1953) that makes it a unique film noir. It’s also shot in Technicolor and takes place primarily in the desert.
Robert Ryan stars as millionaire Donald Carson, a man who broke his leg falling off a horse in the Mojave Desert. But he wasn’t alone: Carson’s wife Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming) and her lover Joe Duncan (William Lundigan) abandon Carson, leaving him with little food and water in the hopes that he’ll die, leaving his money to Geraldine (and by extension, Duncan). But you don’t cross Robert Ryan. Even in the desert, even with a broken leg, he can find a way to mess you up.
Inferno contains some nice 3D moments, but even if it didn’t, it’s a terrific noir. Muller pointed out that the film can be thought of as The Postman Always Rings Twice from the victim’s point of view. (Ryan’s character of Donald Carson could also be thought of as a thinly-veiled version of Howard Hughes.)
Having already seen six movies that day, I was almost wiped out by the time Sunday’s last movie, Man in the Dark (1953) was set to roll. I ran into Muller a few minutes before his introduction and comments, telling him “I’m dragging, Eddie… One more movie…” “It’s a short one,” he said. “You’ll be glad you stayed for it.”
He was right. Man in the Dark is a fun, black-and-white 3D movie featuring one of my favorite actors, Edmond O’Brien. In his introduction, Muller commented that there’s nothing like Edmond O’Brien losing his memory, watching his pompadour bounce up and down as he gets excited. O’Brien plays Steve Rawley, a prisoner serving time for a bank robbery that lined his pockets to the tune of $130,000. Rawley agrees to an experimental surgical procedure guaranteed to remove the “criminal element” from his brain.
I guess the cops aren’t all that concerned about where Rawley hid the loot, but his pals are. Once Rawley’s released with a new identity, Lefty (Ted de Corsia), Arnie (Horace McMahon), Cookie (Nick Dennis), and Rawley’s girl Peg (Audrey Totter) all want to know where he hid the dough, but Rawley can’t remember. They think he’s stalling, especially when they discover a piece of paper in Rawley’s handwriting containing the numbers 1133, which might mean something or nothing.
Man in the Dark is fun, goofy, and highly entertaining. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and its 3D effects are enjoyable. You’ve probably seen better roller coaster finales, but you can’t have a bad time with the film (unless you have amnesia, but then how would you know?).
Photos: DVD Beaver, F This Movie!