NOW STREAMING: Robert Siodmak's 1944 noir smash hit, "Phantom Lady". It was this German expat's first American success, an exercise in über-noir which is more concerned with trying out interesting angles and difficult camera moves than explaining the numerous questions the script raises. It's about a 32 year old engineer who is wrongly accused of murdering his wife. His alibi is so weak, a child could have thought up a better one. The only person who can confirm his whereabouts on the night of the murder is a mystery lady with a funny hat, one he'd met in a bar and walked home, but never gotten her name. Already at this point the script seems implausible, you'd think a grown man would at least have introduced himself and gotten her name. One might argue that the film plays fast and loose with the sexual mores of the time, but no such luck here, he is not allowed to come up for a nightcap. Rather, it's a properly polite goodbye at the front door, which puts paid to any notion of casual sex. Far more overtly sexual is the highlight of the film, a frenzied cross-cutting sequence between an excited jazz combo drummer and a dressed to kill "Kansas", the young secretary who eggs him on, in her desperate search for clues among the tight-lipped witnesses. The film does manage to sustain interest and keep up the tension, and the lighting and camera moves are so expertly done that you tend to forgive the questions that are left hanging. "Phantom Lady" is your typical forties noir, one to be taught in film schools, but mainly as a museum piece.
..and why not?
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