Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Nunnally Johnson
Edward G. Robinson is awesome. And in my limited experience with the actor, I always see to picture him as the detective type, so imagine my surprise to find him as an academic, a professor or philosophy. The film opens with a lecture by Robinson’s character, Professor Wanley, and in the lecture is discussion of degrees of murder that would end up being a lot more telling than the professor could have ever imagined. I really loved the story in this one. It seems to stand out a bit above the murky waters of the noir story I have come to find. It isn’t necessarily unique in its skeleton, but the devil is in the details of it all.
In addition to Robinson being great to watch in this film, his counterpart and partner in crime, Joan Bennett, is equally impressive. I can’t recall another performance of hers off hand that I have seen, but in this film she seems to play the near perfect femme fatale. I can’t say that I blame the professor for falling for her either. I know I probably would in his case. And then from there everything starts to build and build on top of the both of them all to a great finale. Every little twist and turn and situation of circumstance seems to make this one of the better stories I have seen this month. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Sad that in this case it was the end of what was otherwise a very good film.
The one twist I did not care for was the ending. It felt like a cop out to me. In terms of my reception of the film it truly did ruin everything for me. Everything the movie had earned and worked up to to that point seemed instantly negated. It no longer meant anything, lost all of its heft in an instant. Because of this sour response to one of the more important parts of the film, I find it hard to put a final reaction to the film because it was so mixed. I genuinely thought the film was great up until a moment and in that moment it lost near everything it gained. I have to respect the filmmaking and writing to that point though, it’s just a shame that it had to end the way it did.