Impact, 1949

Impact delivers a noir story of betrayal, entrapment, and fear. The ambivalence of the San Francisco cityscape, with its majestic white- roofed buildings, crowned by Coit Tower, set against the claustrophobic alleys of Chinatown, mirrors the chasm between Donlevy’s outwardly bright, sophisticated world, and his domestic turmoil, stirred up by the scheming Helen Walker as his unfaithful wife.

Her plot to kill her husband backfires when her lover, Tony Barrett, thinking he has killed Donlevy, panics and winds up dead himself. I agree with those who think that Donlevy should’ve gone to the police as soon as possible, instead of escaping to Idaho. I could see why he’d need some time to recover and figure out what to do; but why literally walk away from his magnificent career to become a drifter?

Allowing for all that, why, when he does return to San Francisco, does he make up such an implausible cover story? There’s no point in coming back unless he wants to clear himself from suspicion that he had anything to do with Barrett’s death, but he momentarily succeeds only in creating more suspicion about himself.

Finding the fetching Ella Raines, and her idyllic small town life, was definitely worth it, though. Even though the Larkspur interlude seems on another planet from the unresolved crime in S.F., Donlevy is never really free from the city’s noir grasp. Impact loses its edge only at the very end. Once legally exonerated, Donlevy is free to marry Raines, magic dust and all. 9/10.

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