Old Movie Review – Phantom Lady

Every now and then I like to review a movie that doesn’t get much attention these days.

A classic noir style thriller while featuring actors not widely remembered today The Phantom Lady features some great performances and an unusually strong female lead character.  The style of the movie is noir but it doesn’t necessarily fulfil all the requirements to be noir it lacks some of the darker aspects but it certainly shows some of the dark psychology of a killer.

The story involves husband Scott Henderson played by Alan Curtis who after an argument with his wife storms out for a night in a bar, while there he meets a lady on her own and they decide to attend the theatre the lady’s only proviso no names.  On returning he finds his wife murdered but his alibi fails to hold up when no one in the night spots they visited remembers the phantom lady was she there at all?  Convicted only his secretary Carol ‘Kansas’ Richman played by the gorgeous Ella Raines can save him.

Phantom-Lady-3

Released in 1944 this features a strong performance from Ella Raines and she is allowed to create a strong female lead and it’s unusual in movies of this time period that it is her character who is the strong one who continues to fight on not the male character.  Prepared to go to any lengths to prove her boss innocent she journeys into the seedy night life looking for evidence and must try and get the facts from an extravagant actress, a seedy jazz musician played by Elisa Cook Jr who many will remember from small roles in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep and barmen in back alley smoke filled drinking dens.

Direced by one of the most prolific of the noir directors Robert Siodmak the movie has a fantastic style in black and white with fearful shadows and stylised back drops mixing with the claustrophobic jazz club.  In one of my favourite scenes our heroine must brave a whisky soaked jazz club, suffer the advances of the jazz man to a back drop of hopped up jazz that is almost overwhelming.  Many will guess the conclusion before the reveal but when revealed the killer is suitably creepy and the journey is worth taking.   Some negatives the psychology of the accused isn’t examined in detail and it would have been nice to show some doubt that he is innocent his secretary never seems to doubt for a moment he is telling the truth.   But most disappointing is that at a certain point in the movie well before the reveal it becomes perfectly clear who the killer is and why he/she did it.   However, for me this movie has some standout performances and it’s well worth seeking out. 3.5/5

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