Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF
Wealthy Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt) shoots the husband she's divorcing right in front of her boyfriend, Lt. Ed Cullen (Lee J. Cobb). She claims the dead man intended to kill her, and it was only self-defense, but even Cullen doesn't quite seem to buy it [the film sort of drops this angle early on]. Nevertheless, he helps Lois cover up the murder, dump the body, and then gets assigned to the case. Assisting him is his younger brother -- and new cop -- Andy, (John Dall of Atlantis, the Lost Continent), which turns out not to be good news for Cullen. Andy isn't as dumb as he looks. Well ... there are lost gems, and there are movies like The Man Who Cheated Himself, which is in no way a classic like D.O.A. The premise is swell, but the script is superficial, with one-dimensional characters, and the only tense sequence is at the climax. The acting is surprisingly mediocre. At first it's fun to watch Wyatt from Father Knows Best acting like a bitchy murderess, but her performance is ultimately odd. Lee J. Cobb walks through the movie with so little passion and nerves that it's as if his character were drugged with a dozen sedatives. Considering what's at stake -- his entire career and jail time -- his laid-back quality is bizarre to say the least. [If Cobb was hoping to suggest that Cullen was supremely confident and above it all, it just doesn't work -- he's simply unemotional.] Dall is such a laughing lightweight in the first half that it's completely unconvincing when he suddenly accuses his brother [on very little solid evidence] and turns all grim and serious. The movie is watchable but little else.
Verdict: This could have been a classic. **.