Friday 11 May 2007

The Crime Doctor's Gamble (1947) William Castle

After completely failing to get a decent holiday in the cliched backwoods of rural America in The Millerson Case, the Crime Doctor, Robert Ordway, finds his way to Paris. That's the one in France, not the one in Texas, folks: there's no Nastassja Kinski here. He has lectures to give, such as at the Institution Psycho-Pathologique des Invalides Mentaux, but he seems to escape without even having to answer questions so that his old friend Jacques Morrell, the Prefect de Police, can show him all the experiences of Paris. Needless to say Morrell is quite happy to involve his American buddy in a case.

This one has to do with Henri Jardin, a young man locked away in a mental hospital for murdering his father with a knife on the day of his marriage. Morrell had befriended him some years before in a concentration camp together, and is looking out for him now that he's been released from the hospital as sane and faces trial. By the time Morrell introduces the Crime Doctor to the young man, he's already shown him the act of a professional knife thrower without pointing out that Jardin's wife Mignon is the artiste's assistant and daughter, and that the knife thrower himself objected to her marrying into such a family.

There's depth to this one well beyond its predecessor, though it does cheat somewhat in that the facts aren't laid out for us early on to try to fathom it all ourselves; instead it keeps springing new ones on us throughout to change our perspective. There's fun too, as a few scenes look to have been improvised and carry light yet not out of place moments to us. Warner Baxter is always so serious as Dr Ordway and it's a great relief to see that not only can he be lighthearted but he's actually far more fun when he is. What's most surprising though is the fact that only a couple of the French accents are obviously phony.

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