Classic film noir.
- Phantom Lady review by Steve Mason
Siodmak was one of many German directors to make the move from the home of expressionism to American film noir (in escaping fascism). This slight, gloomy, fatalistic low budget melodrama was written by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich) who would use this kind of narrative many times, about an innocent accused of murder, unable to track down the alibi that would save his life.
Alan Curtis plays a middle class malcontent stood up by his elegant but selfish wife and who spends the evening at a theatre with an unhappy stranger on the understanding that they won't talk about themselves and never meet again. When Curtis' wife is killed and he needs an alibi, that premise for an evening's diversion proves catastrophic! Curtis' secretary (Ella Raines as Carol) must trace the woman and free her boss.
There is no musical score in Phantom Lady, but it is still phenomenally suspenseful. Siodmak was a genius at assembling a scene. The way he fits the images together is sensual and artistic. There's an evocation of German silent horror here, amplified by the Peter Lorre-esque performance of Franchot Tone as an artist experiencing psychopathic delusions of grandeur. Tone has top billing but only appears late in the film.
There is a glorious noir look of the rain soaked streets and train stops crisscrossed by the fascinating and beautiful Carol as she searches for the phantom lady. But what everyone remembers the film for is the pairing of Elisha Cook jr. as a jazz drummer with Raines, posing undercover as a hepcat, seeking information about the missing lady. These scenes (particularly the eroticism implied by Cook's lengthy drum solo) are just astonishing and transcend an already outstanding film.
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