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Strange Triangle

Posted by martinteller on April 2, 2015

Sam Crane (Preston Foster) has just come home from the war and is eager to return to his work as a bank examiner.  He’s promoted to district supervisor, and just before he starts his new job, he has a whirlwind affair with an exotic woman named Francine (Signe Hasso).  She disappears after three days, and Sam goes on his first assignment: a bank managed by Earl Huber (Shepperd Strudwick) — whose brother happens to the big boss, Harry (Roy Roberts).  Earl takes Sam home to meet his wife… Francine.  In a stolen moment, she tries to renew their romance, but Sam will have no part of it.  But Francine has other plans, and they have something to do with the cash discrepancy discovered by Earl’s secretary Betty (Anabel Shaw).

The cast is loaded with noir regulars who can at best be called minor players.  Foster — who looks like Ralph Bellamy, especially when he wears a bow tie — is a real dud, no presence whatsoever, playing an uninteresting character whose ethics are too pure to be a compelling noir protagonist.  Hasso — who notably starred in one of Ingmar Bergman’s absolute worst films, the would-be noir High Tension (a.k.a. This Can’t Happen Here) — has the juiciest role as the femme fatale, but neither the actress nor her character is especially good at it.  Shaw is an unbearable goody-goody.  Strudwick comes off as the best of the lot, the only morally conflicted one in the story.

The film’s only real asset is its economy, coming in at an easy-to-digest 65 minutes.  But it’s a pretty bland meal.  Director Ray McCarey (whose background was mostly shorts featuring Our Gang, Laurel & Hardy, and the Three Stooges) is Leo’s little brother, but there’s nothing here on the level of Make Way for Tomorrow.  I don’t recall a single shot that made me take notice, no intriguing choices or thoughtful treatment.  Very workmanlike.  This was his second-to-last film before his death at age 44, which is certainly sad but judging from this movie I don’t think Hollywood lost a great talent that day.

The movie also pokes at one of my pet peeves.  It’s told in flashback as Sam tells Harry the whole story.  That’s fine, but there are a number of scenes that Sam was not privy to.  It’s just abusing the flashback structure (undoubtedly a popular motif at the time, so many noirs use it) that’s there no good reason to use in the first place.  There’s nothing set up in the beginning in the film that needs to be built up to.  This isn’t William Holden floating facedown in a pool… it’s two boring guys sitting in a room talking.

There’s just not much to get excited for here.  It isn’t strange at all, and none of the angles are exciting.  It’s also got an uncomfortable undercurrent of postwar xenophobia to it, as the one foreign character is also the only truly bad one.  Rating: Crap (36)


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