"Men of our years have no business playing around with any adventure that they can avoid."Fritz Lang
's 1944 Film Noir
, one of the first films
to be so called. Married, middle-aged psychology professor Richard Wanley falls in lust with a provocative portrait of a young woman. When the portrait's model, a budding Femme Fatale
, catches him ogling it, she invites him up to her apartment. The two are interrupted by her boyfriend, who tries to strangle Richard, and Richard kills him in self defense. Now the two must try to quietly dispose of the body to avoid scandal, but are hampered by their lack of trust for each other. Complications include Richard's friend, a district attorney who investigates the man's disappearance, and a third party scheming to blackmail them both.
While relatively unsophisticated by today's standards, and hampered by The Hays Code
, the film was moderately well-regarded in its day for its convincing portrayal of an ordinary man driven to heinous crime by one bad decision.
This movie contains examples of:
- All Just a Dream: A textbook version. The whole plot is a dream of Richard's. Yes, even the many scenes he's not in. This was tacked on by Fritz Lang to conform with The Hays Code.
- Blackmail: Unbeknownst to the conspirators, the murdered man had a bodyguard...an ex-cop who was fired for blackmailing.
- But You Were There, and You, and You: After waking up, Richard recognizes two acquaintances as the victim and the blackmailer.
- Driven to Suicide: Richard, when he thinks he's about to be caught.
- Femme Fatale: Alice, the title character.
- Film Noir
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Richard makes this error repeatedly when discussing the case.
- Love Before First Sight: Apparently, this is how Alice likes to meet men. She lurks near where her portrait is visible through a shop window, and listens for the Wolf Whistle.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Done in full view of the poisoner.
- Pygmalion Plot: The general concept is alluded to. As Richard stares at the portrait, suddenly the real woman appears, reflected in the window, as though the painting had come alive.
- Sarcastic Confession: Richard, repeatedly.
- Tampering with Food and Drink
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: The adultery and the killing are regrettable, but it's the suicide that makes it a true tragedy; if Richard had just waited a little longer, he would have discovered it to be unnecessary.