The Locket, 1946. 10/10

The Locket couldn’t be a better deal for film noir fans. Laraine Day is an enigma as Nancy, a dangerous woman, seeking revenge for an unjust accusation of theft as a child. Robert Mitchum, Brian Ahern, and Gene Raymond play a succession of Nancy’s love interests.

Everyone and everything fits together seamlessly in The Locket. Usually I think that flashbacks are an overused gimmick in this genre, but here it blends three stories, and three deaths, into a continuous unfolding mystery. Despite having (probably) killed one man, let another man die in her place, committed another guy (Ahern’s Dr. Blaine) to a nuthouse, and provoked a suicide, Nancy does get her comeuppance. The hallucinatory wedding scene, as she literally relives the childhood scene of the alleged theft with her would-be mother-in-law, resolves the story with unique impact.

We’re told she has regressed to the age she was at the first traumatic event. From her perspective, then, nothing has changed; she’s frozen in time with the music box and locket, shunned and humiliated. On the other hand, she could hardly have caused more mayhem, affecting so many lives, if several generations had passed, instead of just one.

This is one of the most psychological of film noirs. There’s little action, but actually, thanks to the deft flashbacks, a lot happens. The only bit that I felt was a bit much was Mitchum’s character’s suicide. I could see why he can’t get over Nancy dodging Bonner’s (Ricardo Cortez’s) murder, but he’s hardly an unstable character. Might’ve been more interesting if he had lost it more gradually…

That’s a small quibble against such a magnificent viewing experience. The Locket is one of those movies that makes you think–then makes you want to watch it again. 10/10.

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