Plot: What’s it about?
Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) is beautiful and could have most any man she wanted, but he chooses to spend her time in her lab working instead of dating and getting married. And that time has been put to good use, since she has reached levels of success no others have in the area of anesthetics. It seems as though Nora has it all, she is beautiful and sought after by men and also intelligent and a pioneer in her field. Her beauty and success could serve to be a double edge sword if jealousy enters the scene and that is exactly what happens in this case. Nora is preparing an important experiment soon, but her jealous lab partner Arline Cole (Hillary Brooke) has some plans of her own. She makes some preparations of her own concerning Nora’s experiment, making sure it will blow up in her face…literally. Her plan works to perfection and soon after the experiment begins Nora’s face is bathed in acid, leaving her disfigured and in serious pain. While she was a kind person before the accident, she now seeks revenge on those who have caused her this suffering. In order to enact her revenge she needs a new face and a new identity and a new face, which could be provided thanks to some new acquaintances…
Hell hath no fury as a woman scalded by acid. While that line seems like it belongs on the cover of a second rate horror flick, it actually belongs to a classic and powerful film noir, Strange Impersonation. I’d never seen this film before this review disc arrived, but since Anthony Mann served as director I expected a solid film. I have to say my expectations were exceeded on all fronts with this movie, I will be adding this to my personal collection the minute this review is complete. The writing is solid throughout and I never found myself bored with the pace, but I can see how those unfamiliar with noir might not have the same reaction. The pace is slow at times, but I never thought it was too slow and the story unfolds in a concise manner. The visual style seems basic at first glance, but if you really pay attention you’ll find some complex compositions, which Mann is well known for. This is a film noir so don’t get this release if you want a pick me up by any means, but it does make a nice addition for fans of the genre. I recommend this release to all fans of noir as well as those looking for a solid mystery/thriller, but make sure you rent this one before you purchase since the disc is bare bones.
This film was directed by Anthony Mann, who is widely held as the most influential American noir director. Fans of the genre are sure to recognize his name and have been enjoying his films for a while, but even newcomers should make sure to peruse his resume. Mann uses a simple yet powerful style when it comes to directing and it works to perfection in this case, as well as many of his other movies. The camera doesn’t use flashy or fancy techniques, but you still get sucked into the visuals which is no easy task. Instead of movement, Mann brings across his style in composition which I feel is every bit as effective, especially in films such as this one. If you want to see more of Mann’s movies I recommend Railroaded!, T-Men, Reign Of Terror, Raw Deal, and many more. This film has some very solid performances, but I think some will feel the actors are too melodramatic at times. This serves the film well though, so in many cases the approach works well. The cast includes Brenda Marshall (The Constant Nymph, Whispering Smith), Lyle Talbot (Jail Busters, Plan 9 From Outer Space), Ruth Ford (Secret Enemies, Lady Gangster), and Hillary Brooke (Unmasked, Invaders From Mars).
Video: How does it look?
Strange Impersonation is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the film. This is a very good visual presentation especially given the age of over fifty years, but there are some problems to be seen. The source print is in good condition, but some scenes display a lot of nicks and wear signs which I suppose is expected. This is a black & white picture and the contrast seems to be consistent, though some scenes appear overly dark. But then again, this is noir so perhaps that is intentional. This transfer has some hiccups, but overall stands as a terrific visual offering.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses the original mono track which offers a nice audio experience, since the film doesn’t call for much power from the speakers. I was pleased with the overall sound, as the typical mono hiss is absent and I never heard any distortion in the track, which is excellent since the film is quite old. The music sounds good and so do the effects, there isn’t much in terms of high impact audio here but it all comes together well. The dialogue is the main focus in this mix and it sounds terrific, no volume or clarity problems emerge at all.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains no bonus materials.