7 February 2018 | michael-f-passe
modern film noir is full of surprises
"The Two Pamelas" opens with a simple plot device - an aspiring actress passed out on a casting couch in her underwear, holding a gun, and the casting director's dead body slumped in a chair across the room. This could have been the setup for a standard "whodunit," and there are indeed lots of plausible suspects. But the film delves into some kinkier territory, and ends with a seasoning of Hitchcock. For the most part, thanks to good performances and cinematography, The Two Pamelas works.
The girl on the couch, Darlene (played energetically by late night TV's Jennifer Day), is just one of several suspects in the murder of the casting director, Burt Wald. The most intriguing suspect appears at first to be Wald's wife; that is until Wald's unhinged, Oedipally-confused son enters the picture (played with gleeful neurotic energy by Ilia Yourdanov). Nearly any explanation would by necessity contain spoilers, so we'll leave it at that.
The cinematography is one of the main charms of the film, affectionately borrowing lots of film noir conventions like so-called Dutch Angles from classics like "The Third Man" and filming in moody black-and-white and sepia tones. The musical score is from the David Lynch school of creepy minimalism. It may seem a tad derivative to some viewers, but genre fans won't mind at all. They truly don't make them like this any more.
There are some talky stretches, but "The Two Pamelas" holds your interest anyway. It has elements of a police procedural flick, with Detective Galento (veteran actor Robert Miano) working the crime skillfully. The acting is all strong. The plot continually pulls the Darlene character deeper into the mix. Miss Day, gorgeous as ever, is a revelation. She plays Darlene as nervous and jittery, like someone with a secret that she doesn't quite understand, and she plays it convincingly. Mr. Yourdanov, the other pivotal character, has a meaty role that he plays with gusto.
If you like film noir or detective fiction, this is a treat, and you don't have to travel back to the 1940's to enjoy it.