Phantom Lady

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"IT'S UNIQUE...suspense...mystery...drama!"
  • NR
  • 1944
  • 1 hr 28 min
  • 7.2  (5,646)

Phantom Lady is a film noir released in 1944, directed by Robert Siodmak and based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich. The story revolves around Scott Henderson, a man accused of murder, and his loyal secretary, "Kansas" who attempts to clear his name. The title refers to a mysterious woman who provides a vital piece of evidence in the case, but whose identity remains unknown throughout most of the movie.

The film begins with Henderson (Franchot Tone), a successful engineer, celebrating the end of a business trip with a few drinks at a bar. There, he meets a beautiful woman (played by unidentified actress). They hit it off and share a night on the town, but when Henderson returns home, he finds his wife strangled to death in their apartment. He is soon arrested and charged with murder, despite his claims of innocence.

With the help of his secretary, Carol "Kansas" Richman (Ella Raines), Henderson attempts to prove his innocence by tracking down the woman he met at the bar. However, when Kansas locates her, she discovers that the woman has disappeared without a trace. Determined to uncover the truth, Kansas decides to become a detective herself, delving into the shadowy underbelly of New York City.

As she uncovers more clues, Kansas begins to suspect that a conspiracy is afoot, involving Henderson's best friend, Jack Marlow (Alan Curtis), and a group of shady characters who frequent smoky jazz clubs around the city. These characters include an eccentric drummer (Elisha Cook Jr.), a sardonic bartender (Thomas Gomez), and a femme fatale (Aurora Miranda). As Kansas delves deeper into their world, she must confront her own fears and insecurities, and risk everything to clear her boss's name.

One of the most striking features of Phantom Lady is its use of visual motifs, particularly the recurring image of patterns and reflections. Siodmak employs a variety of techniques, such as distorted lenses, double exposures, and chiaroscuro lighting, to create a hallucinatory atmosphere that heightens the film's sense of paranoia and disorientation. In one memorable sequence, Kansas wanders through a deserted subway station, where the tiles and lights seem to take on a life of their own. In another, she visits a fortune-teller and stares into a crystal ball, only to see the murderer's face staring back at her.

The film was also notable for its strong female characters, particularly Kansas, who is portrayed as resourceful, intelligent, and independent. Unlike many female protagonists in film noir, she is not a mere damsel in distress, but an active agent in the story, who takes risks and makes decisions that drive the plot forward. Raines gives a noteworthy performance, full of fierce determination and vulnerability.

In addition, Phantom Lady includes a number of memorable musical moments, featuring the talents of jazz musicians such as Buddy Rich and Ray Bauduc. One scene in particular, where the drummer performs a solo on a junkyard percussion set, is a tour de force of rhythm and texture.

Overall, Phantom Lady remains a classic of the film noir genre, a labyrinthine mystery full of twists and turns, and a stylish exercise in visual storytelling. It is a film that showcases the talents of its cast and crew, and provides a glimpse into a bygone era of Hollywood.

Phantom Lady is a 1944 crime movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 28 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2.

Phantom Lady
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 28 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (5,646)