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Film noir aficionados continue to debate whether Impact (1949) is canon but the beguiling hodgepodge aesthetic of this United Artists release defies easy categorization. The film's use of San Francisco locations (including the Brocklebank Apartments - later put to iconic use in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo) give the production a touch of street corner verit, an effect mitigated by director Arthur Lubin with the use of miniatures and Gothic flourishes that could only be accomplished on a soundstage - making Impact a film that veers as if intoxicated between the realms of hard reality and make-believe. Brian Donlevy stars as an industrialist whose perfidious wife (Helen Walker) conspires with her lover (Tony Barrett) to murder the "softy" for his insurance policy. When the other man winds up dead in his place, the body burned beyond recognition, an injured Donlevy recovers with no memory of past events or even his own identity. Settling down to the poor but happy life of a small town garage mechanic, Donlevy later learns the truth from detective Charles Coburn - but will he give up the happiness of a simple life to clear Walker of his murder? Director of photography Ernest Lazlo went on to lens such latter day noir classics as D.O.A. (1950) and Joseph Losey's remake of M (1951) but Impact alternates between evocative shadowplay and the antiseptic brilliance of a "woman's picture," while Michel Michelet's use of the Theremin telegraphs the divided mind of its decent but damaged protagonist.
By Richard Harland Smith