The forties were the decade of the undistinguished, professional movies, with a few careful masterpieces in between. They weren’t the experimental twenties, the stage-bound thirties, the Technicolor fifties, the realistic sixties, or the made-for-television seventies – and they certainly weren’t the theme park rides of later decades.
You knew what you were going to see, Joan Crawford mad, Joan Crawford homicidal, Joan with amnesia, with a brain tumor, with an identical twin, all with the same expression. Occasionally, of course, it would be Bette Davis, and, if you were lucky, Rita Hayworth.
It didn’t have much to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary people, or any people, for that matter, which was the whole point. You can watch yourself, when you shave.
This time around, Joan Fontaine is the rather unlikely femme fatale. She has to get rid of two men in order to marry rich, her husband and her lover, so why not frame one for the murder of the other?
Unfortunately for her, Sir Cedric is on the case, after having almost sent the lover to the gallows. Una O’Connor even looks in as a psychic messenger of doom, if somewhat more restrained than in THE INVISIBLE MAN or BRIDE FRANKENSTEIN.
Joan, of course, gets her comeuppance just before the end titles for poisoning her husband. But let’s be fair, Cary Grant tried to do the same to her in 1941 – we more than suspect.