Saturday Night Cinema: The Dark Mirror (1946)

Tonight’s Saturdy Night Cinema is the 1946 psychological thriller The Dark Mirror starring Olivia de Havilland .“Twins! One who loves…and one who love to kill!” That was the dramatic tagline that advertised this film noir.

Impressively unusual thriller with typically simplistic Freudian elements as psychiatrist Ayres is called in by the police to help investigate a murder committed by one of two identical twins…but which one? Intriguing cat-and-mouse games and perverse power struggles as both he and we try to fathom which of the sisters is the warped psycho, with de Havilland (in the dual role) and Siodmak managing admirably to counteract the contrived plot. What really makes it work, though, is Siodmak’s firm grasp of mood and suspense; the opening scene, in which the camera prowls a darkened room until it finds a corpse, sets the tone perfectly for the sense of uncertainty and chaos that follows.

Siodmak’s direction shows his experience in German Expressionistic film – making The Dark Mirror a satisfying noir to look at. It’s all mirrors and dark corners in a contemporary city setting. And his interest is in the disturbed mind more than the murder mystery. You can tell that right from the beginning with the film’s titles over Rorschach ink blots. The film itself is kind of a Rorschach test. Watch it once and it’s a simplistic murder mystery with a romantic happy ending. Watch it again and you may see something else.

Leading the investigation is a bumbling detective (Thomas Mitchell – the simpleton who ruined Jimmy Stewart’s life in It’s a Wonderful Life), an unethical doctor (meeting with his patients outside of his office. Immediately becoming romantically involved with one. Sucking on candy like it’s an addiction. And played by Lew Ayres – a guy the public didn’t exactly have big love affair with. This was the former “Doctor Kildare”s first film back from being blacklisted for being a conscientious objector in World War II.) Honestly, these two men are not to be trusted! But it’s 1946 and it’s the fairer sex that’s causing the trouble. (Film Noir of the Week)

Opening with a promising gait, the pic [from a story by Vladimir Pozner] gets lost in a maze of psychological gadgets and speculation that slow it down. Olivia de Havilland, playing a twin role, carries the central load of the picture. She’s cast simultaneously as a sweet, sympathetic girl and her vixenish, latently insane twin sister. A murder is committed and while one girl has been positively identified as coming out of the man’s apartment on the night of the murder, the other establishes a fool-proof alibi.(variety)

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