There's some level of basic cinematic verisimilitude that we never think about or notice until a film fails to meet it, and Phantom Ladyfails to meet it. There's never a hint that the actors in this film believe they are actually the characters in the story, and you can't blame them. They are forced to act their way through a painful mishmash of dated styles, deal with scene-stopping directorial choices, make sense of absurd character motivations, and remain wary of sets that seem like they could collapse inward at any moment and kill everyone. If the people behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 never picked Phantom Lady as one of their objects of merciless ridicule, they really missed out -- it would be perfect for them. This is a film in which the good guys stand around and discuss their theory that the unidentified killer should be easy to unmask because all serial killers are "paranoiacs" and paranoiacs are easy to spot because they have uncontrollable mannerisms. While they are having this discussion -- I'm not making this up -- one member of the group, Franchot Tone's businessman character, actually begins squinting one eye as though it were squirted with lemon juice, and watches as his own hands involuntarily clutch into claws. If someone said this film was so bad that it was fascinating to watch, I guess I wouldn't disagree, but I seriously recommend a stiff drink first.

categories Cinematical