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pandorainmay

Impact (1949): The Best Noir No One Knows?

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I finally saw the rather unusual little noir, Impact (1949) starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, and Helen Walker. It might just be one of the better, lesser known noirs.

 

Good acting, an interesting script with several twists, and an exposition of the plot that kept my interest made me wonder if others have discovered this movie. Perhaps one reason that it's not better known is that, as the title proudly exclaims, it's a Harry M. Popkin Production, (who??). Well, Mr. Popkin also produced a couple of little movies such as And Then There Were None (1945), D.O.A.(1950) and Champagne for Caesar (1950), none of which were too shabby. It seems that Mr. P. was one of those indie producers from the late '40s whose work, while interesting, never had a studio's deep pockets and wide distribution to back it--though each film seems to share some thoughtful scripts, good acting, and interesting twists--which I won't spoil here in case you seek this film out for yourself.

I hope that others will add their observations of this film as well.

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I think that " Impact " would have been much better if the director was someone who was more than an Abbott & Costello, and Francis the Talking Mule veteran. If Robert Siodmak or Jules Dassin had directed it would have the potential for noir greatness, witness the Popkin Produced noir classic " DOA ", starring Edmund O ' Brien. Ella Raines and Helen Walker have both been longtime favorites of mine. It is always good to see Anna May Wong in a film, all the ladies that I have mentioned were ill - used by Hollywood. Ms Walker partially because of injuries suffered in an automobile accident, Ms Wong because of race. I bad Irish Brogue is better than no Brogue at all. " Irishness " always enhances a film.

 

Message was edited by:

ken123

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As I recall, the Alpha DVD of Impact has an outstanding transfer, maybe not Criterion Collection quality but darn good for a public-domain outfit. Some of Alpha's transfers make it look like the film/TV episode is physically coming apart as you watch it, but this one looked like it had received some genuine remastering (as opposed to the "digitally mastered" claim some DVD companies use, which you could say is true of anything converted to DVD!).

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Dan,

The dvd quality of Impact that I viewed was pristine. It was packaged by Image Entertainment, Inc. It seems to have been a transfer from an Irish print of the film, since there is a card at the beginning of the film referring to the movie having been reviewed for general audiences through the Censorship of Films Act of 1923, which was still in force in the late '40s in ?ire. Btw, I bet there was a lot of hooting when the Irish audiences got a load of Coburn's wavering accent.

 

The good location shooting--showing several recognizable San Francisco landmarks and streets, as well as the pastoral scenes in Larkspur, (reportedly filmed in the real town of Larkspur, CA, not Idaho, as indicated by the script), are an added fillip to the enjoyment of the movie. The studio-bound production values of the movie are quite good, and include some plush corporate interiors, upscale and humble homes.

 

Ken,

That's an interesting point that you made about the film having roles for several actors who were "ill-used" by Hollywood. I'd add the good character actor, Robert Warwick, who plays the police captain, as one of those individuals. Reportedly, Humphrey Bogart asked that his old friend Mr. Warwick be cast a year after this movie was made in a small, showy role in the excellent In a Lonely Place(1950). Bogart, whose Santana productions bankrolled the latter film, was said to have asked for this choice by up and coming director Nicholas Ray since Warwick had been a mentor to the star in his salad days in the NY theatre when Mr. W., with a classically trained background, was a much bigger name in the '20s. Bogie said that Warwick was "living on beans" and trying, none too successfully, to make ends meet in Hollywood at the time.

 

Thanks to both of you for sharing your thoughts with me.

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Yes, I've seen the Image DVD of IMPACT and you're right, it's beautiful. It's a shame more people don't know this film, it's definitely more than just a low-budget curio. (And thanks for the info on Nick Ray / Bogart re: Robert Warwick. BTW. If you're as fascinated by Nick Ray as I am, you might want to check out the recently published book "Live Fast, Die Young - The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without A Cause." Absolutely fantastic book!). My own additional interest in IMPACT stems from the fact that for about a year I lived in Larkspur, a very quaint town in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

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Hi Dewey,

I envy you your sojourn in an apparently idyllic-looking Larkspur. I will be sure to check out the book on Ray, whose rollercoaster life would probably seem too outlandish in the most nightmarish noir. The story about Bogart & Warwick came, if memory serves, from A.M. Sperber & Eric Lax's excellent bio, Bogart. It's the best that I've read about the icon's complex personality and often mercurial career.

 

Maybe TCM will take a liking to your idea of introducing Impact to a larger audience in the future? Hint, hint.

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My memory of this movie is, in part, of the interesting use of sound and music. The train whistle, first heard when Brian Donlevy is most in peril, is later repeated, setting off painful memories for the character about the earlier time. A volunteer fire dept. signal interrupts Donlevy during a quietly intimate talk with Ella Raines, and the repetition of certain lines as narrative reflecting the lead character's state of mind, (a noir hallmark), are all used discreetly. Michele Michelet, the composer of the instrumental music for this film, heightens the tension and pathos throughout the movie, and even includes, at key points, a well-placed theremin!

 

While I've read that some feel that this movie is not truly a noir for a variety of reasons, it is an engaging drama that interestingly, takes the overly familiar assumptions that the audience has about Donlevy the tough guy, and displays his work as an actor, not just a type. Another actor who has a nicely written and played role in this movie is Phillip Ahn, who had a very long career, and who appears as Anna May Wong's protective uncle. When a flatfoot asks him condescendingly "you savvy English?"--he answers, a bit wearily, "Yes. Also French, Italian, and Hebrew." Nicely done, Mr. Ahn, as usual.

 

As mentioned earlier, Helen Walker, who had a rather tragic life, gives an excellent performance here. I also liked her in The Big Combo (1956) in a very small, but effective part at the end of the Noir era. Since Donlevy also appeared to his advantage in that movie, it seems that the Noir cycle gave both a chance to stretch their acting wings. Too bad Hollywood didn't nurture them more.

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While I've read that some feel that this movie is not truly a noir for a variety of reasons, it is an engaging drama

Well, I would probably have enjoyed the movie a lot more if I hadn't been expecting film noir. As a crime drama, it is fairly well done, and has a lot of good things going for it. As a noir -- and of course people's definitions of film-noir may vary -- it just didn't strike me as anything much, with overly bright photography and much of the action taking place during the day instead of at night or in dark places. Nor does it have as a protagonist someone who is doomed from the get-go.

 

Just one of those cases where a movie might be more fun if no one told you what genre to expect.

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Yes I did---thanks for bumping this thread up---and I did enjoy it. A different sort of role for Donlevy, and an unusual movie all around. I thank you all for the recommendation!

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> {quote:title=dsclassic wrote:}{quote}

> Impact is really great...and I have the Alpha DVD of it as the print is superb :) !

 

I've heard a lot of good things about it. Wonder if there is any way TCM could show it?

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I also own this on DVD this is a highly recommended movie.. great Brian Donlevy movie..Wade Williams of Image released this on DVD as well as Alpha. I wound up buying both DVDs from the different companies. I did a comparison with the Alpha DVD and the only difference is the sound quality is better on the Alpha DVD but the print is essentially the same..which is rare since Image & Kino do better jobs than Alpha..I think this movie print is flawless no matter who releases it...

Will TCM show it ? Good question, I dont see why not..its worth seeing...

Well for those dont own the DVD, I hope so. It is not an expensive DVD to get..and it will have an Impact on your DVD collection..

Pun intended :)

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> {quote:title=TripleHHH wrote:}{quote}

> Will TCM show it ? Good question, I dont see why not..its worth seeing...

> Well for those dont own the DVD, I hope so. It is not an expensive DVD to get..and it will have an Impact on your DVD collection..

> Pun intended :)

 

I will keep this in mind... thanks for sharing.

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You gotta love public TV. I watched this movie with no commercials, having never heard of it. I like it a lot. The story is fascinating and sensitive. Plot points are set up well, so that they're satisfying when utilized. Good characters. Good writing. I like everything about IMPACT.

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