Movie Critique - Lightning Strikes Twice

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: There is less logic and more drama in this mystery with shades of romance, medley of other human emotions, and the fear of what to believe and what not to believe, makes this a perfect mystery to watch on those stormy nights or scary Halloween evenings

Lightning Strikes Twice is a 1951 American drama film directed by King Vidor and produced by Henry Blanke. The lead cast includes Ruth Roman, Richard Todd, Mercedes McCambridge and Zachary Scott among others.

Actress Shelley Carnes (portrayed by Ruth Roman) enroute to a Texas dude ranch meets Richard Trevelyan (portrayed by Richard Todd) who is recently acquitted on the charges of murdering his wife, Loraine. She meets more characters along the way, gets herself suspicious of Richard and also fears for her own life.

The plot is adapted from the 1940 novel, A Man Without Friends, by Margaret Echard. The background music was composed by Max Steiner which repeatedly echoes a passage from La valse by Maurice Ravel.

There's instant electrical chemistry between Ruth's Shelley and Todd's Trevelyan in the film. You can feel it coming through the screen, even in the scenes where there is fear and agony cutting through them. I wonder why were there no movies with the pair. 

After seeing her acting she seemed so familiar and when I searched her acting credits I saw that she portrayed the role of Loretta Spiegel, the owner of the hair salon in Cabot Cove, in the famous TV show Murder, She Wrote that aired from 1984 through 1996. She makes a much better Shelley Carnes here.

A few days ago I saw another movie, the 1954 horror film Creature of the Black Lagoon, which had Julie Adams, who also was part of Murder, She Wrote series as Eve Simpson. Two movies in a week that had the actresses having a second career with the show.

I also saw a movie which had Zachary Scott as the antagonist lead male.  In 1945 American film noir, Danger Signal.

He was a charming rogue in this film as well like the one I saw before. Six years later he is still the same rogue but a bit older, as Harvey Fortescue Turner. A very minor role he has though, sadly. 

Mercedes McCambridge as Liza McStringer comes off more as a weepy and needy rather the psychotic person she is supposed to be. It felt as is she was acting rather than living the role. Could have been better if she was looking at the characters rather than camera when intense scenes were being done.

A doctor prescribed medication to recover her health lands Shelley in the middle of jealousy, murder and a love tryst. Even though the story is of Richard Trevelyan, the viewers cannot help but focus on the leading ladies - Liza McStringer and Shelley Carnes - who come into Trevelyan lives at different junctures of his life. 

The film had several short comings - the jealous acting was merely acting rather than emotions shown real; Zachary Scott's role is pushed to a mere 10 minutes or so in the film; the way the plot in-between suddenly changes as though a link is missing. 

There is less logic and more drama in this mystery with shades of romance, medley of other human emotions, and the fear of what to believe and what not to believe, makes this a perfect mystery to watch on those stormy nights or scary Halloween evenings. Go watch and spook yourself!

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Trevelyan Ranch in the film is director Vidor's own ranch in Pasa Robles, California.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When Shelley's car gets stuck in mud, she sees the house from her windshield a little far off and a fence. However the next shot when she is getting out, her car is much closer to the fence.

b. She stumbles through mud and rain to get to the house from her car, but when she comes inside the house, it's clear that Shelley is not that much wet at all, while Trevelyan when he comes back from taking her things from the car is thoroughly soaked and dripping water. 

c. With all the late-night torrential storm that happens previous night, the roads in the desert are pretty dry and dusty.

d. When trying to help Shelley go across the ledge, Trevelyan steps over a boulder; and Shelley is on the other side of the second boulder. However when the next shot which is  a closeup one, the boulder between his legs is missing; and Shelley is on this side of the second boulder.

e. The fence that is seen on the left side of the car is single railed before the car crashes into it. But when the actual crash is shown, the fence is double-railed.

f. Also the crash scene happens at a road that is a straight stretch of highway. But the next day the accident site is shown beside a blind curve around the hill.


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