Man In The Dark, 1953. 8/10

A good noir thriller with a neat gimmick. Edmund O’Brien’s Steve, part of an armored car robbery gang, gets caught, but he’s paroled to a hospital for experimental surgery. He subsequently loses his memory. This cleverly sets up the archetypal noir hero’s sense of alienation from society.

For once in her noir career, Audrey Totter’s character is sympathetic. As Steve’s girlfriend, she starts out unconcerned about his fate, but, as she realizes what happened to him, her love for him outpaces her greed for the missing loot.

The pacing keeps the plot moving at a pretty good clip. At first I thought the bumper car chase was silly, the cops gliding around in formation–as if on parade. And, from such close range, they should’ve been able to nail Steve. But then I remembered that Steve was having a nightmare. The mixing of memories and dreams with the main plot adds more and more, building into the palpably grotesque atmosphere of the amusement park. This long sequence is coolly spun into a quick finish. Steve ‘squares’ himself with the police, and he and Peg can finally have each other.

The 3-D effects would probably look pretty cool in a theater. They happen quickly and don’t detract much. But the trio of bad guys with goofy nicknames could’ve used more than the two-dimensional treatment that they’re given. As a result, the middle of the movie does drag a bit, as they try to sweat out the whereabouts of the money from Steve.

They can’t be so dumb not to realize that he really doesn’t know much about the past; why else would he have been on parole to have a mysterious operation as well as a new identity?

Aside from dangling those chumps into the plot, Man In the Dark works relentlessly to keep our attention, and ultimately to bring O’Brien and Totter together. Along the way, the viewer’s treated to a sort of noir Christmas. 8/10.

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