Phantom Lady (1944)

Robert Siodmak directs Ella Raines, Franchot Tone and Alan Curtis in this film noir where a man accused of murder’s only hope is for his loyal secretary to turn undercover detective to help find the mystery woman who could provide an alibi for him.

Essentially three different films that flow into each other. The first act is a moody mystery where a depressed man and a secretive woman meet-cute and go on a chaste one night stand. Then we get plucky Secretary Ella Raines try on various personas as she tries to figure out why the various witnesses in the first act are lying. This is the highlight of the film. The final acts sees Raines trapped with her boss’ ‘old friend’, we know he is the psychopath behind the conspiracy but she doesn’t. All three sections are ominous and unpredictable. They vibe with a seedy sexuality and pessimism. Siodmark captures impressive city scapes and oppressive blurs of light and shadows. Ella Raines is wonderful as the good egg mystery solver, throwing herself into peril essentially for a sexist pat on the head by her doomed employer. This is a great noir.

8


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