Twenty Plus Two, 1961. 7/10

Interesting late film noir, let down by some plot and casting flaws. David Janssen plays the quasi-detective character Tom Adler with an affected booziness; he’s not imposing enough to make this Marlon Brando-mumbling-in-a-slick-suit thing work. I do like that his job is nebulous; he seems to have to explain himself repeatedly. It’s as though, in true noir fashion, he’s really not sure who or what he is.
As others have noted, Dina Merrill looks positively middle-aged when she’s supposed to be just twenty in the Tokyo flashback. Thankfully, Agnes Moorehead, William Demarest, and Jacques Aubuchon inject Twenty Plus Two with enough life to sustain interest.

I like how the reviewer pierrotlunaire0 pointed out the plot holes. I can sort of see Tom falling for Linda all over again, especially as she keeps throwing herself at him. But it’s just too convenient that she’s also friends with Nikki, his other lost love. Since we never see the ‘grown-up’ picture that her mom shows him, we don’t know that he then suspects that Nikki is Doris. At least that part of the mystery works well.

Then there’s Brad Dexter’s Leroy, who is the actual murderer, going free and easy because he framed Doris. The cabin-in-the-sticks denouement is stagey; but for all of its exposition, it still doesn’t add up. How is it that Dane, of all people, doesn’t recognize Doris/Nikki until she tells him who she is? Why did he have to kill his buddy anyway? Doris had fled, knowing she had shot Lane. She’s still in hot water, and, given the mores of the times (in 1948, even in 1961), her pregnancy makes it worse for her.

Lane would have to fear repercussions from her wealthy family; but she’d probably be so relieved when she discovered that she hadn’t killed anyone, that nothing more would happen. On the other hand, given that Dexter’s character recreates himself as Lane, and became a celebrity, he should’ve at least been under suspicion as a rapist, if not a murderer.

Well, if we can squint our perception of the plot, there are those larger-than-life performances from the supporting cast to entertain us. The flashback sequence is masterfully set up by its ascending webs of smoke signalling Adler’s reverie. Thanks to the black and white filming, we not so far from the smoky, boozy, hat-wearing late 40s noir golden age.

The editing is pretty good too; we’re not allowed to get too comfortable before sweeping into another scene. The exceptions would be the interlude with Agnes Moorehead, which was so good it even made Jannsen look important, the cool ‘interview’ Tom has with the down-and-out bum in the bar, and the scene in the cabin, which dragged a bit. I’d have been happier with Doris and Tom’s scene under the tree giving us a little more, and then letting the shoot-out happen quickly.

The music was irritating at times. Kind of like the nervous demeanor Janssen displays when he’s not mumbling. Like others, I wonder what the title refers to. The better noir movies have abrupt, dangerous sounding titles that hint at what we’re going to see. Other than a presumption that Doris is about twenty years old when she’s in Tokyo, there’s no twenty, or two, or twenty-two of anything here.

Still, a fun movie, with a good premise and some fine scenes. 7/10.

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