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

Thursday, May 10, 2018


James Mason and Joyce Howard
THEY MET IN THE DARK (1943). Director: Karel Lamac.

Richard Heritage (James Mason) receives a court-martial because fake orders were palmed off on him by an unknown person. He goes to see a young manicurist named Mary (Patricia Medina of The Killing of Sister George), who tells him she has something important to tell him and will speak to him later. She never makes the date but her dead body is found  by Laura Verity (Joyce Howard) in a house owned by Laura's uncles. When Mary's body disappears, the police want to put Laura in jai for supposedly lying and leading them on a chase, so she runs off with Richard in pursuit, neither quite trusting the other. Along the way they encounter a slimy mind reader named Riccardo (Karel Stepanek of The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World); a radio singer named Lily (Phyllis Stanley); a theatrical impresario named Christopher Child (Tom Walls); a petty officer named Bill Grant (Robert Sansom of He Found a Star); and others, some of whom are part of a nest of spies. Meanwhile Commander Lippinscott (David Farrar of The Sea Chase) is surreptitiously trying to check out the story Richard told at his hearing. He and Richard discover that a certain song to be sung in a nightclub contains a secret code that could sink a ship ... They Met in the Dark is all too typical of WW2 spy movies that are cobbled together with elements lifted from Hitchcock films. These films are called "Hitchcockian" because of those elements but the simple truth is that it's Hitchcock's style of direction that sets his movies apart. Without that style -- and with a poor script and weak direction, as this has -- these movies have no reason to exist. As well, They Met in the Dark is almost stupefyingly dull. The actors, including Mason, can't be faulted, but this badly-constructed picture is an effort to sit through. Director Lamac seems to have no clue as to how to put a picture together in a compelling fashion, although even Hitch himself may have been defeated by the screenplay.

Verdict: Dreadful -- the kind of pictures Mason had to put up with in the earlier days of his career. *.

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