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kingrat

The Strange Woman

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THE STRANGE WOMAN, recently seen on TCM, has one bit of, well, unusual casting. You're casting the part of a brawny Maine lumberjack and give the part to . . . George Sanders??? What, Noel Coward wasn't available? But then Hedy Lamarr doesn't exactly have that down East twang, either.

 

Unfortunately, the print shown on TCM wasn't very good, with one or two reels in particularly bad shape with lots of snow. The story and characters remind you of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, which isn't surprising because both movies are based on novels by Ben Ames Williams. If you like LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, you'll probably like THE STRANGE WOMAN reasonably well. Small wonder the men make fools of themselves over Hedy. George Sanders may be oddly (mis)cast, but he's a capable actor. Louis Hayward plays the handsome but weak guy. Edgar G. Ulmer is a cult fave, though this isn't the film mentioned first by his fans (that would be DETOUR). Ulmer's direction seems competent, but not really remarkable, though a clear print of the film might show subtleties that are now lost.

 

The title comes from a Biblical passage quoted by a visiting revivalist. We're told that we ought to beware of the strange woman. If you watch noir, you know that's good advice.

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No, *The Strange Woman* isn't the first Ulmer movie one thinks of, but when his directing credits include *Menschen am Sonntag*, *The Black Cat*, *Bluebeard*, *Strange Illusion* and *Detour* (and other work on *Der Letzte Mann*, *Sunrise*, *Tabu* and -- according to Ulmer, but not Lang -- *Metropolis*, *Die Nibelungen*, *Spione* and M) there's good reason. I find Ulmer always interesting to watch if for no other reason than to see how creative he could be with minimal budgets and time. Quite a journey from UFA to PRC.

 

About Lamarr, Ulmer said (with, perhaps, some puffery): Beautiful picture. It nearly got Hedy Lamarr an Academy nomination. It's the only picture where she ever had to act.

 

IMDb lists Douglas Sirk (oh, my!) as an uncredited director and Eugen Schufftan as a co-producer. Given the relationship between Ulmer and Schufftan, and the latter's list of uncredited camera work (as I recall, he did not belong to the union, so he wasn't given credit on many of his U.S. '40s movies), I bet he did much of the cinematography on *The Strange Woman*.

 

Edited by: ChiO on Dec 3, 2010 9:13 AM

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ChiO, thanks for a great post on Ulmer's career. It's important to learn about all the uncredited contributions. If only we had a better print of THE STRANGE WOMAN to see what the cinematographer actually accomplished.

 

The relatively low budget on THE STRANGE WOMAN hurts more than for many noirs because it's a historical picture. Which may make Anthony Mann's accomplishment in THE BLACK BOOK even more impressive.

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