Noir-Vember Day Four: The Dark Corner (1946) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Nov/100

Noir-Vember Day Four: The Dark Corner (1946)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny INDIFFERENTI don't get shoulder pads.For women's clothing, I mean. While the vogue of fashion in several bygone eras, they emphasize a strong shoulder line at the expense of the feminine figure. Which is fine for some women, I guess, but not Lucille Ball.

She's the star of today's movie, The Dark Corner. Well, her and those shoulder pads. I don't mean to keep harping on them, but Ball gets the lead billing and her shoulder pads are better actors than the rest of the cast.

That's not to say the movie is bad or anything, just maybe unexciting. It's the story of a tough San Francisco PI who was betrayed and sent to the slammer for a crime he didn't commit. He relocates to New York and starts up a new business only to find a few ghosts churning out of the woodwork to throw his new life through the ringer.

His secretary is Kathleen, played by the comedienne extraordinaire Ball without much vim or vigor. The movie spends a good amount of time with her even though she doesn't drive much if any of the story, and her character is about as bland as they come in a noir. A dutiful woman who helps the hero out even when he wakes up next to the dead body of his worst enemy. Ho hum.

As ineffective as the two leads are, there are some really lovely shots throughout the film.

It doesn't help that the protagonist and thoroughly unlucky private investigator is played by television star Mark Stevens with an unending amount of blandness. A man who is tortured to drink, who's been through hell and back in prison, and who's finally given the chance to make his revenge against the man who did all of that to him probably should not be able to shrug it off quite so soundly after an easy punch or two. He's an alcoholic who always seems surprisingly sober and a charming bastard who completely lacks any charm. To say he's the weak spot in the film is an understatement.

Because Stevens' part has been minimized, either to give the weight to the top billed Ball or because of just bad writing, the rest of the movie feels particularly listless. The narrative hook is a good one, but there's no weight, and the antagonist who uses Stevens' private eye in an elaborate scheme is as much of a mustache twirling villain as you're going to arrive at in a film like this.

The villain also makes several completely boneheaded moves, not the least of which involves leaving a dead body next to the unconscious hero and then not calling the police. What, did you think he was going to call the police on himself after he specifically remembers a tango with a man holding a cloth soaked in ether over his mouth?

There are a lot of nicely composed shots that feel wasted.

Despite these misgivings (and a few more I may have), The Dark Corner does look good and displays some dark humor at points. And while I know this bit of humor is unintentional, there's the scene of two bodies laying on the floor in a dark apartment, while the curtains dance in a cool summer breeze. Ball arrives and flicks on a switch, only to reveal a shadow of a desk fan falling over the two bodies now, as if the director demanded that any corpse gets a shadow, dammit, even if that shadow wasn't there five seconds beforehand.

The Dark Corner tries to play with the concepts of the morality of revenge and redemption but is undercut by an unfocused screenplay and a stiff leading man. If only he had been as interesting as those shoulder pads and then maybe we would have found something truly special.

1 Angel Face
2 RYAN - D.O.A.
3 I Wake Up Screaming
4 The Dark Corner
5 MELISSA - Shadow of a Doubt
6 RYAN - Laura
7 ANDREW - Naked City
8 BEN - Lethal Weapon
9 RYAN - Blood Simple
10 BEN - Third Man
11 Odd Man Out
12 CHRISTY - tbd
13 RYAN - Strangers on a Train
14 ANDREW - Night and the City
15 The Accused
16 RYAN - The Lookout
17 BEN - Touch of Evil
18 Apology for Murder
19 Girl in the Black Stockings
20 Kiss Before Dying
21 ANDREW - Rififi
22 Kansas City Confidential
23 BEN - Sin City
24 RYAN - tbd
25 Big Knife
26 MELISSA - Rebecca
27 RYAN - In a Lonely Place
28 ANDREW - The Sweet Smell of Success
29 Lady from Shanghai
30 Gilda

Posted by Danny

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