Ella Raines (1921-88) was a cool, green-eyed brunette (with auburn highlights) who twice made the cover of "Life" magazine when she starred in two forties noir films for Universal, "Phantom Lady" and "Criss Cross." Two years before her 1943 film debut, a stove exploded in her face, fortunately resulting in just temporary damage to her hair and eyebrows. (The experience later added to the realism of her performance when she played a woman whose face had been scarred in "The Second Face.") Raines' career started out strong and she always gave good performances, but her films declined in quality and importance during her five-year contract.
1949's "Impact" was made independently in San Francisco, making fine use of both The City itself and the surrounding Bay area, including Sausalito and Larkspur. With better distribution: it might have picked up the reputation it deserves, for rarely has a film noir been as expertly convoluted as this one is. It has everything!: infidelity, attempted murder, accidental death, amnesia, false imprisonment, exciting courtroom sequences, missing evidence, a missing witness...What more could anyone ask for at three in the morning?
Ella Raines plays a resourceful garage mechanic who stops at nothing to free the man she loves (Brian Donlevy). The excellent cast also features Charles Coburn as a tenacious inspector, lovely Helen Walker as the wife from hell, Anna May Wong as the loyal employee who holds they key to the mystery and Mae Marsh as Raines' mom. Only a few of Raines' films are available on video (including some episodes of her 1954 television series, "Janet Dean, Registered Nurse.") Luckily, "Impact" is among them.
© 2004 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 3/3/04
USA - 1949