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Strange Illusion
     

Strange Illusion

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Cast: Charles Arnt, Jameson Clark, Jimmy Clark

 

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Strange Illusion is really several movies in one, part dark psychological chiller, part unsettling murder mystery, and part breezy B-movie thriller, although most of its plot is derived from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Jimmy Lydon, best-known to audiences for his screen portrayal of Henry Aldrich during the early '40s, plays Paul Cartwright, the son of a

Overview

Strange Illusion is really several movies in one, part dark psychological chiller, part unsettling murder mystery, and part breezy B-movie thriller, although most of its plot is derived from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Jimmy Lydon, best-known to audiences for his screen portrayal of Henry Aldrich during the early '40s, plays Paul Cartwright, the son of a respected judge who died under mysterious circumstances two years earlier. Paul is haunted by nightmares in which his father warns him of danger to his mother, and in which a mysterious stranger seems to threaten him and his family. He dismisses these dreams until his mother (Sally Eilers) introduces him to a wealthy man back east, Brett Curtis (Warren William), who says some of the very same things that Paul heard from the mystery man in his dream. There's a lot to dislike about Curtis despite his smooth, genial ways -- he seems too eager to please, and also offers an oily solicitousness to Paul's teenaged sister that's downright disturbing. Paul openly distrusts Curtis and opposes his mother's impending marriage to him. Most of those around him think Paul is overreacting and he is maneuvered into checking himself into a sanitarium run by a psychiatrist friend (Charles Arnt) of Curtis'. Trapped there and kept under constant surveillance, Paul is in danger, but he manages to find a clue that proves not only that his father's death was no accident, but that Curtis was involved in it. His discovery may be too late, however -- not only is his life in jeopardy, but it turns out that Curtis is really a career criminal that Paul's father had pursued from the bench for years, and that his real goal, having killed the judge, is to destroy the judge's family, including Paul's mother and sister. The plot of Strange Illusion works on many levels, as mystery and a dark psychological study, and it is told so smoothly and well by director Edgar G. Ulmer and his cast, that it may require multiple viewings to fully appreciate, though it is enjoyable on any level.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Strange Illusion is one of the most enchantingly bizarre and thoroughly enjoyable examples of film noir ever to come out of the celebrated "B" studio PRC, as well as being one of the most unsettling psychological thrillers of its era. Director Edgar G. Ulmer had become fascinated with the subject of psychology in the mid-'40s when he decided to make this movie, intended initially as an adaptation of a contemporary play, not a single element of which ended up in the final film. The screenplay that did result crawled with Freudian subtexts and several levels of neurosis and psychosis; the Oedipal fixation of the young hero and the villain's thinly veiled pedophilia (directed at teenage girls) being only the most obvious. The basic plot derives from Hamlet, but it is given a particularly nasty (and startling) edge by making the Claudius character (Warren William at his oiliest) into a would-be child molester. Coupled with Jimmy Lydon's vulnerably neurotic (yet appealing) hero, that onscreen pairing is as disquieting as it is startling to watch. Even in a movie made two decades later, these elements would be extraordinary, but the fact that they are presented within the context of a stylish little '40s B-mystery programmer makes them even more unsettling. Ulmer also filled his movie -- shot, as was usual in his case, in under three weeks, though not the mere six days in which Detour was filmed -- with all manner of stunning visuals, from the eerie dream sequences that open and close the film to the paranoia-laced, claustrophobia-inducing scenes of the hero trapped in a sanitarium. One particular scene, of the hero turning an eavesdropping gambit of the villains (a one-way window behind a mirror) into a means of escape, is a brilliant piece of photography, staging, and psychological symbolism. What's even more amazing is that none of the budgetary limitations under which Ulmer was working show through. This is one of the best-looking B-movies of its era, and it even offers a rich musical score by Leo Erdody (partly adapted from Schumann) that is central to the plot -- though to appreciate this film fully, one should find the best-looking DVD edition (probably the one from Allday Entertainment). There were directors working during this period who had scripts costing ten times in fees and time what this one did, and budgets of a million dollars or more (which would be up to 40 times what Ulmer had to spend here), who never made a movie a quarter as good, or as fascinating, disturbing, and complex, as Strange Illusion.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/27/2004
UPC:
0089218431493
Original Release:
1945
Rating:
NR
Source:
Alpha Video
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:20:00
Sales rank:
63,836

Special Features

[None specified]

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charles Arnt Prof. Muhlbach
Jameson Clark People
Jimmy Clark Actor
Sally Eilers Virginia Cartwright
John Hamilton Actor
Jayne Hazard Dorothy Cartwright
Jimmy Lydon Paul Cartwright
Mary McLeod Actor
Victor Potel People
George H. Reed Benjamin
Sonia Sorel Actor
Regis Toomey Dr. Vincent
Pierre Watkin Actor
Warren William Brett Curtis

Technical Credits
Edgar G. Ulmer Director
Harold Bradow Costumes/Costume Designer
Adele Comandini Screenwriter
Leo Erdody Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Leon Fromkess Producer
Paul Palmentola Art Director
Carl Pierson Editor
Harry Reif Set Decoration/Design
Elias H. Reif Set Decoration/Design
Fritz Rotter Original Story
Philip Tannura Cinematographer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Chapter 1 [14:11]
2. Chapter 2 [14:10]
3. Chapter 3 [13:10]
4. Chapter 4 [13:56]
5. Chapter 5 [13:41]
6. Chapter 6 [16:05]

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