Paramount's "Street of Chance" is an early, and certainly not full-fledged, entry in the film noir canon. It qualifies mainly for being based on a work by that master of paranoia and cruel fate, Cornell Woolrich -- using the familiar amnesia premise to trigger the protagonist's alienation -- and by its oppressively moody low-key lighting. The first few reels offer a true noir milieu of urban angst and displacement -- the hero, injured by falling construction material, discovers a year-long lapse in his life -- and worse, he's suspected of murder and has a completely unremembered lover in addition to his puzzled wife. As the film progresses and he narrows in on the truth, it resolves itself into something closer to Gothic melodrama, with a more traditional view of human transgression and frailty. The blending of the two genres is reminiscent of the studio's "Among the Living" from the previous year rather than the out-and-out noirs "This Gun For Hire" and "The Glass Key" of its own release year.
Paramount's B-picture unit offered a higher degree of professionalism than most, reflected by the fine level of performance and technical achievement here. Burgess Meredith's lead character is far too benign to be a true Woolrichian anti-hero, but Claire Trevor shows underlying tinges of femme-fatalité which would serve her well later in her career. Lower-rank director Jack Hively contributes a few visual cachets, particularly the unexpected discovery of a pivotal character lurking in the background, and an over-the-transom tracking shot to end the picture that is almost Antonioniesque. Unfortunately, he doesn't milk the character conflict for much intensity, and the denouement is disappointingly soft.
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