Impact


1h 51m 1949
Impact

Brief Synopsis

After surviving a murder attempt, an auto magnate goes into hiding so his wife can pay for the crime.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 1, 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Mar 1949
Production Company
Cardinal Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,982ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

After delivering a passionate speech in which he convinces his company's board of directors to purchase some factories in Tahoe, California, San Francisco industrialist Walter Williams returns home to his wife Irene. Walter reenacts part of the speech for Irene, and their maid, Su Lin, mistakes it for an argument. Walter then leaves to finalize the deal, promising to call Irene on his way home. After Walter leaves, Irene phones her lover, Jim Torrence, with whom she is plotting to kill Walter, and tells him to go to Sausalito. When Walter phones Irene, she persuades him to give her cousin "Jim," who is stranded in Sausalito, a ride to his home in Denver. Walter meets Torrence and they drive for several hours before stopping at a café. While Walter is inside, Torrence sabotages one of Walter's tires. When the later tire blows, they stop near a steep embankment. Torrence then hits Walter on the head with a wrench, rolls his unconscious body down the slope and tosses his briefcase after him. Just then, a passing moving-van driver stops to offer help, and a panicked Torrence drives off and crashes head-on into a tanker truck full of fuel.

Meanwhile, Walter regains consciousness, grabs his briefcase, climbs back up to the road and jumps into the back of the moving-van, then passes out. Later, in San Francisco, police lieutenant Tom Quincy informs Irene that Walter has been killed in the crash, as Torrence's charred remains have been mistaken for Walter's. Irene attempts to find Torrence, who was supposed to meet her at an Oakland hotel after he had killed Walter. After attempting to phone Torrence's aunt in Denver, Walter realizes that he has been set up. The moving-van men later find Walter's briefcase in their truck and turn it over to the police, who check it for fingerprints and find Torrence's. Quincy then locates Torrence's residence in Berkeley and finds monogrammed handkerchiefs identical to one he saw Irene use. Checks of phone bills reveal many calls between Irene and Torrence. Quincy informs Irene that Walter's briefcase has been found and that they now suspect foul-play. Walter decides to stay on in Larkspur, the small Idaho town where he has landed, and gets a job as a mechanic in a gas station run by war widow Marsha Peters. Marsha's mother invites Walter, who now goes by the name Bill Walker, to board with them. There, Walter keeps a collection of newspaper clippings about the case and learns that the police are searching for Irene's lover.

Three months later, Walter has settled down in Larkspur and started to develop a relationship with Marsha. When news comes that Irene has been charged with conspiring to kill Walter and that the police are still hunting Torrence, Walter is content to let Irene take the blame. Several weeks later, Marsha's mother accidentally finds the collection of clippings, but trusts him and says nothing to her daughter. To avoid involving Marsha, Walter decides to leave and tells her about his past, but she convinces him to return to San Francisco and goes with him to substantiate his story to the police, who confront Irene with Walter. Irene quickly accuses Walter of killing Torrence, claiming that she and Walter argued after he refused to give her a divorce, a fact that Su Lin can verify. The police decide to hold Walter on suspicion of murder and release Irene. Marsha feels guilty about having persuaded Walter to return, but he assures her that he has gained much from her and wants to believe in the same values she does. Walter tries to explain his lengthy absence by claiming that he had amnesia, and a sympathetic Quincy listens to his story.

Marsha, meanwhile, decides to try to find Su Lin in Chinatown but locates only her uncle, who is hiding her as she is afraid of being involved. However, during the trial, Marsha spots Su Lin, follows her and learns that because of Walter's kindness to her and her family, she does not want to be forced to testify to hearing the argument, as that could damage Walter. However, she does reveal that she knew that Irene was involved with Torrence. Later, Quincy and Marsha find proof that Irene was intending to meet Torrence after he killed Walter. In the courtroom, the defense attorney calls on Irene to testify and proves with clothing and a photograph found in Torrence's baggage that she was involved in the attempt on her husband's life. The prosecutor then asks for dismissal of the case against Walter and declares his intention to prosecute Irene. Marsha and Walter thank Quincy for his help and plan to remain together.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 1, 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Mar 1949
Production Company
Cardinal Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,982ft (12 reels)

Articles

Impact


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 verité, 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
Impact

Impact

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 verité, 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

Quotes

In this world, you turn the other cheek, and you get hit with a lug wrench.
- Walter Williams

Trivia

Notes

According to Hollywood Reporter news items, production of this film was suspended for almost two weeks on October 20, 1948 when actress Ella Raines became ill with a viral infection. Director of photography Ernest Laszlo and his crew were borrowed from Paramount for the production.