Movie Critique - Impact

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Drama, Murder, Mystery and Femme Fatale - all elements you need in a film noir and more you get in this along with some heavy dialogues from the cast. Not a single frame disappoints you.

Impact is a 1949 American film noir starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn and Helen Walker among other cast. Directed by Arthur Lubin, Produced by Leo C. Popkin, the plot is adapted from a story by Jay Dratler. Jay and Dorothy Davenport gave the Screenplay.

A murder attempt happens on multimillionaire Walter Williams (portrayed by Brian Donlvey) by his young wife Irene (portrayed by Helen Walker) and her lover Jim Torrence (portrayed by Tony Barret). However, Williams escapes to a small town of Larkspur, Idaho; starts a new life under an assumed name; finds love in Marsha Peters (portrayed by Ella Raines). But, past catches up to Williams and now he faces the law.

A few celebrities can be seen among the cast - character actor Tom Greenway as Moving Van Driver; Anna May Wong's first screen appearance as Su Li Chung since her 1942 film Lady from Chungking; and gossip reporter Sheilah Graham as herself.

Another unique feature for this film is showing brand name products seen all over as part of marketing gimmick. Some we see are - Bekins moving van; movie trade paper Harrison's Reports; Laykin et Cie, a leading west coast jewelry store in the opening credits, and their jewelry prominently worn by Helen Walker's Irene Williams.

I have heard Brian Donlevy in so many radio episodes on the Old Time Radio Podcasts these past couple years. He portrayed the heavy, tough guy roles in most of the shows he had been. However, he is more famous for his portrayal of US Special Agent Steve Mitchell on the Radio and TV show Dangerous Assignment.

Our heroines Helen Walker and Ella Raines, were both 19 years younger than Brian Donlevy. Incidentally Raines' character Marsha Peters was a WW2 widow; and in real-life Raines was married to a WW2 ace fighter pilot, Robin Olds, at that time. Mae Marsh who portrays the roles of Mrs. Peters, Marsha's mother was only 4 years older to Donlevy. 

Walker's Irene makes a convincing femme fatale so much so that I wanted to throw the vase at her and the law enforcement for falling into her trap so easily. Raines' Marsha is portrayed pretty with far more better brains yet morally bound. Sadly her morals are the ones that cause more troubles to her and Williams. 

And don’t forget Charles Coburn's charming and kindly police detective Lt. Tom Quincy. He reminded me of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple a lot. His character's wit and timely investigation steers the case in the right direction. And Coburn suited Quincy in every way.

The opening credits were overlaid on a book titled "Dictionary". At the end of the credits, a hand opens the book, the word "Impact" is highlighted, and a voice over reads the dictionary meaning of the word. Interesting opening. The movie ends with the Dictionary closing.

Tight and twisted plot reminiscing of "The Postman Rings Twice" plot, but with far more moral limits. Drama, Murder, Mystery and Femme Fatale - all elements you need in a film noir and more you get in this along with some heavy dialogues from the cast. Not a single frame disappoints you.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. This is the final film appearance of William Wright. He portrays the role of the Prosecutor in the film. Sadly at a very young age of 38 he passed away from cancer 3 months before the film was released. (The man on the right in the picture)

b. The telephone operator Miss Revere (portrayed by Linda Leighton) is seen reading a magazine titled Murders of the Month. I couldn’t find any magazine of that name. 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When Williams arrives in the town of Larkspur, Idaho, he sees a news article about his death with his photo printed on it. However no one in Larkspur seems to have read that news or seen his photo and compared to him. How is that possible that the entire town ignored such a big thing?

b. The end credits list Mae Marsh's character as "Mrs. Peters". However in several dialogues her name is called as "Mrs. King".


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