“PHANTOM LADY”— A Consummate Crime Classic

“PHANTOM LADY”

A Consummate Crime Classic

Amos Lassen

From, Robert Siodmak, one of the masters of the film noir, brings us a  consummate crime classic, “Phantom Lady.” It all begins with Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) having a fight with his wife and going to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he strikes up a conversation with a mysterious, despondent lady who agrees to accompany him to a show uptown. She does not tell him her name. Upon arriving back home afterwards,  Scott is met by the police who inform him that his wife has been strangled with one of his neckties and he is the prime suspect. He has a solid alibi but who was his companion is nowhere to be found and no one remembers seeing them together. Scott is charged with murdering his wife and  it falls to his devoted secretary Kansas (Ella Raines) to find the phantom lady and save Scott from the electric chair.

The film has stylish cinematography, cruel characters and memorable performances from Ella Raines and Franchot Tone. The film is a combination of the styles of Alfred Hitchcock and the old German psychological films, full of the play of light and shadow, of macabre atmosphere, of sharply realistic faces and dramatic injections of sound. People sit around in gloomy places looking blankly and silently into space, music  comes forth from empty darkness, and odd characters turn up and disappear. It is all very studiously constructed for weird and disturbing effects. However, a plausible, realistic plot is missing. This is the story of a girl’s endeavors to prove her sweetheart innocent of a murder he didn’t commit but it becomes tiresome after a while. The monotonous pace does not help. Ella Raines as Carol Richman gives a moody performance as the curiously frustrated girl, and Franchot Tone, who shows up late in the picture, play a neurotic fellow bewitchingly. When Scott picks up the mysterious woman that refuses to tell him anything about herself, they go to a show to see Estela Monteiro (Aurora Miranda) who becomes very angry that both women, she and the mystery woman are wearing the same unusual hat. When Henderson returns home, he finds Police Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez)  and two of his men waiting to question him about his wife’s murder. Henderson has a solid alibi, but the bartender, taxi driver and Monteiro deny seeing the phantom lady. Henderson cannot even clearly describe the woman.

Carol is secretly in love with Henderson and sets out to prove his innocence. She starts with the bartender. She sits in the bar night after night, staring at and unnerving him. Finally, she follows him home one night. When he confronts her on the street, some bystanders step in to restrain him. He breaks free, runs into the street and is run over. Later, Burgess offers to help (unofficially); he has become convinced that only a fool or an innocent man would have stuck to such a weak alibi. Policeman Burgess has learned that the drummer at the show, Cliff  (Elisha Cook, Jr.) had tried to make eye contact with the mystery lady. Richman dresses provocatively and goes to the show. Rhythmic inter-cutting between Cliff’s frantic drumming and Richman’s leers gets the going back to his apartment. There he brags that he was paid $500 for his false testimony. However, he becomes suspicious when he accidentally knocks over her purse and among the spilled contents finds a piece of paper with details about him. Richman manages to escape, leaving her purse behind. After she has gone, the real murderer, Henderson’s best friend Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) shows up at the apartment and strangles Cliff.

Marlow who is supposedly away on a job in South America, pretends to return to help Richman. She tracks down Monteiro’s hat maker, Kettisha (Doris Lloyds). One of her employees admits to copying the hat for a regular customer and provides her name and address. With Burgess away on another case, Richman and Marlow go to see Ann Terry (Fay Helm)  and discover her under the care of Dr. Chase since the man she was to marry had died suddenly, leaving her emotionally devastated. Richman is unable to get any information from her but does find the hat. Marlow suggests they wait for Burgess at Marlow’s apartment. However, while she is freshening up, Richman finds her purse and the paper with Cliff’s particulars in a dresser drawer. He admits he became enraged when Henderson’s wife refused to run away with him; she was only toying with him. That is all of the summarizing that I can do and please note that I wrote no spoilers.

 

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements

  Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Dark and Deadly: 50 Years of Film Noir, an insightful archival documentary featuring contributions from Robert Wise, Edward Dmytryk, Dennis Hopper and more

  Rare, hour-long 1944 radio dramatization of Phantom Lady by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Alan Curtis and Ella Raines

  Gallery of original stills and promotional materials

  Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Alan K. Rode

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