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Impact (1949)

Posted: June 17th, 2009, 10:28 am
by phil noir
A couple of nights ago, I watched this independently produced film noir, and I was really impressed. The plot involves self-made millionaire Brian Donlevy, who is married to conniving, honey-voiced Helen Walker. He is utterly besotted with her, so besotted that he doesn't realize she is planning to murder him with the aid of her 'cousin' (in reality her lover, of course). But things go awry: Donlevy escapes and the cousin dies. However, the police think Donlevy is dead, and it is the cousin who has gone on the run. Thanks to the tireless investigations of policeman Charles Coburn, Walker is arrested for her husband's murder, while he hides out in a small town in Idaho, where he takes a job at a garage run by war widow, Ella Raines.

I couldn't really believe in Coburn as a hard-boiled cop - he'll always be Piggy in Gentleman Prefer Blondes to me - and Donlevy, although very good, was a bit too old for the part as written. There was approximately twenty years difference in age between him and Walker in real life, and although this gap would have made for a very plausible dynamic in the characters' poisonous relationship had it been acknowledged, we were meant to believe that he was much younger than he really was, I think. Certainly Ella Raines's mother has a line where she calls him 'young man', which was rather absurd. The women were very good: the now forgotten Helen Walker's role was a kind of variation on her femme fatale psychiatrist in Nightmare Alley, while Ella Raines - not a performer I've noticed much before - was a very attractive, relaxed presence, effortlessly suggesting the virtues of small-town life without making a sanctimonious song and dance about it.

Amongst the supporting cast were silent icons Anna May Wong as Walker's maid and Mae Marsh as Raines's mother. I was also interested to see, playing herself, columnist Sheila Graham, whom I have previously read about in biographies of Scott Fitzgerald.

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: June 17th, 2009, 11:50 am
by klondike
I caught this ambitious cheapie on one of those "4-in-1" noir dvd's about 2 years ago (the highpoint thereon being Edward Arnold in Eyes in the Night, the lowpoint [sadly] being Mick Rooney thrashing about in Quicksand), and there's not much I can add to your critiques, Phil, except to express that Donlevy's "post accident" scenes, where he attempts to forge a new life as a "new" man, has a pleasantly also-ran resemblence to Mitchum's small-town alias work in Out of the Past.

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: June 18th, 2009, 6:20 am
by phil noir
klondike wrote:Donlevy's "post accident" scenes, where he attempts to forge a new life as a "new" man, has a pleasantly also-ran resemblence to Mitchum's small-town alias work in Out of the Past.


That never occurred to me, but now you point it out, yes, definitely. I was also reminded a bit by those sequences of Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels. Different genre, I know...

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 26th, 2009, 4:29 am
by ken123
IMHO any film with Ella Raines & Helen Walker is a must see, but Impact is only so - so. :(

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 8:01 am
by CineMaven
Well since this old "summer" chestnut has been brought out in this chilly day of November, let me add my two cents.

I agree with the first part of Ken's statement: "IMHO any film with Ella Raines & Helen Walker is a must see..."

"IMPACT" is a film I enjoyed very much. Yup, I buy Coburn as the Detective. He's not the hard-boiled kind, but doggedly determined. This is one of the few times I'm happy to see Brian Donlevy NOT as a villain. And when Raines' mother calls Donlevy a young man...he very 'knowingy' acknowledges: "Thanks for the young man," he says.

For me, Klondike...the lover getting killed and the husband running makes me think of a film that would come after this one: "Niagara" where another blonde tries to bump off her husband. What is it about blondes...haven't they ever heard of divorce court?? ;-)

I love seeing the great Anna May Wong in this, and Ella Raines and Helen Walker are very good as well, playing their 'type' with their eyes closed. (A shame about the tragic trajectory of Helen Walker's career. I try to tape any movie she appears in).

"IMPACT" is a good film. I recommend it.

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 12:48 pm
by klondike
CineMaven wrote:Yup, I buy Coburn as the Detective. He's not the hard-boiled kind, but doggedly determined. .


I getcha; kinda like Eddie Robinson's pipe-puffing "Wilson" in The Stranger!

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 1:01 pm
by ken123
How about Arthur Kennedy or William Conrad in the Coburn role ? Bob Mitchum for Donlevy ? :D

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 3:57 pm
by klondike
ken123 wrote: William Conrad in the Coburn role ?


Conrad just wouldn't work for me in any sort of sympathetic role in anything from the 40's - not after seeing him as the crueler of the 2 button-guys at the beginning of The Killers. :|

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 4:06 pm
by ken123
klondike wrote:
ken123 wrote: William Conrad in the Coburn role ?


Conrad just wouldn't work for me in any sort of sympathetic role in anything from the 40's - not after seeing him as the crueler of the 2 button-guys at the beginning of The Killers. :|

Thomas Mitchell ? :)

Re: Impact (1949)

Posted: November 27th, 2009, 7:20 pm
by klondike
I think that the pure volume of Mitchell's filmography is adequate proof that the guy could portray anyone - except maybe a taxi dancer or a Catholic nun.
Gotta say though, no disrepesct intended: he made one silly-seeming Pat Garrett in Hughes' The Outlaw! :x