9 January 2014 | kevinolzak
Three-part anthology from Universal
1943's "Flesh and Fantasy" is included in the Brunas-Brunas-Weaver book UNIVERSAL HORRORS, and as such gained a distinction it probably never wanted. Unusual for the studio, it's an anthology film comprised of three tales about personal responsibility and shaping one's fate, with slight supernatural overtones. Like 1945's "Dead of Night" and its Amicus offspring, we have a framing story, the delightful Robert Benchley playing off against David Hoffman (the face announcing the 'Inner Sanctum' series). Story one stars Betty Field as a plain-looking woman whose belief in her own unattractiveness has left her lonely and bitter; a chance encounter with a bearded stranger (Edgar Barrier) offers her a mask to disguise her ugliness from the man she's loved from afar, who now recognizes her beauty during an evening of Mardi Gras. This seems a bit overlong even at a mere 27 minutes, but the second story breezes by quickly, top billing Edward G. Robinson as wealthy attorney Marshall Tyler, whose belief in an eccentric palmist (Thomas Mitchell) nets him the woman of his dreams, but an ominous future in discord. Only when pressed further does the prognosticator confess that Tyler is going to kill someone; he becomes so obsessed with who his victim should be that he neglects his beautiful bride-to-be (Anna Lee) and comes to a bad end. Story three pairs Charles Boyer and Barbara Stanwyck, but its drawn out shipboard romance is a letdown coming after the best segment. What was intended to be the first tale in a four-part anthology was excised and reshaped into a 64 minute feature, 1944's "Destiny," which may have been the most dazzling of all; judge for yourself. Unbilled bits come from Peter Lawford, Marjorie Lord, Jacqueline Dalya, Doris Lloyd, Ian Wolfe, Clarence Muse, and Grace McDonald (who played a different character in "Destiny").