Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE (1951). Director: King Vidor.

"You're not in love with him, you're in love with the smell of murder."

Shelley Carnes (Ruth Roman) is a struggling actress who has somehow saved up enough money to go west for her health. There she encounters Richard Trevelyan (Richard Todd), a man who was acquitted of murdering his unfaithful spouse. Shelley stays at a ranch with Liza (Mercedes McCambridge) a friend who is in love with Richard and who inexplicably wound up on the jury that acquitted him [!], and her weird younger brother, "String" (Darryl Hickman). Shelley is also befriended by Richard's father figure, J. D. (Frank Conroy) and his wife, Myra (Kathryn Givney), as well as their friend, Harvey (Zachary Scott), not to mention the family priest, Father Paul (Rhys Williams). As Shelley begins to fall in love with Richard, she must determine if he is guilty or not -- did one of the aforementioned actually murder his wife? The previous year's Stage Fright also starred Richard Todd as a man mixed up in murder, making Lightning Strikes Twice a significant title for this mostly tiresome retread of sorts, albeit it has a different plot. King Vidor manages to keep things moving, but that's about all, and the suspense is minimal. The actors all acquit themselves nicely, however. The most interesting scene has McCambridge [Giant] going on to Roman about women who, in essence, develop a "thing" for convicts and murderers, even wanting to marry men locked up in jail. The storyline in this actually isn't bad, but there are some jaw-dropping moments of illogic and the whole thing just doesn't hold together. The ads for this film virtually ignored Todd in favor of Roman. Max Steiner's music, which is somewhat recycled, is surprisingly unmemorable. King Vidor also directed the much zestier melodrama Beyond the Forest, which also had a better Steiner score.

Verdict: Half-baked melodrama. **.


angelman66 said...

Sounds like a good cast, though! I love Mercedes McCambridge, and Zachary Scott, and Darryl Hickman was adorable (Shirley Tempe's first screen kiss, I believe!). Never was a huge fan of Ruth Roman, though, I don't find her unforgettable. I like Vidor's films, including Beyond the Forest....

William said...

McCambridge was a fine actress. In "Johnny Guitar" she was like a stalking wolverine (not to be confused with Hugh Jackman!). Roman was competent enough but she was never one of my big favorites, either. I'm glad somebody else besides me likes "Beyond the Forest," which I always get a big kick out of every time I see it. I'm aware of its flaws but love it anyway!

"I'm not just anybody, I'm Rosa Moline!" A friend of mine does a dead-on impression of Bette Davis saying that line!