24 July 2010 | tedg
Grabbed in the Dark
This era in filmmaking is fascinating. The evolution of the medium was in a phase of punctuation where everything was up for grabs and narrative conventions we now take for granted were formed. Watching these is like exploring the Burgess Shale, to see elements that lasted, and many that didn't.
The story here nominally has a young nurse planted in a house to solve a murder. This is a typical spooky large house, with a bedridden cranky old person. Not every suspect is locked in the house, living there, but they all are presented within the building. Some of them are caught sneaking about, but are seen from a window. There are relatives, lovers, the doctor and lawyer. Newspapermen sometimes hover. The nurse is a blond who wants excitement and finds it in a romance with the detective. As this is pre-code, we are introduced to her character as she is getting ready for bed.
Along the way are numerous narrative devices that are hard to even notice today. It just seems off, but that is because what we are watching for is different. One of these is Blondell getting grabbed in the dark by a menacing silhouette. She screams persistently, long enough for doors to be battered down. This happens three time. The plot is so complicated, it by three different men. There seems to be no reason for her to be grabbed so, other than to reference common fears of the women in the audience — and fantasy of the men?
The solution to the mystery is revealed to a gathering of the suspects. It is more complicated than usual, so much so that it does not tie up all the ends, nor completely explain what we have seen.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.