Locket, The (1946)

The Locket (1946), directed by John Brahm.

An unusual women's noir thriller: our central character is a mystery woman and the story is about her and her men. She seems too perfect, and in fact has a flaw: she takes jewelry and sometimes leaves a body behind. She doesn't seem to remember. Is she an exceptionally good liar, or does she (like many of us) have a creative memory, or is she evil or amoral, or just mentally ill?

The story unfolds in nested flashbacks: from her wedding day, back to a previous marriage with a psychiatrist, then back to a romance with tough guy painter Robert Mitchum, then back to a childhood incident of yearning and humiliation. Incredibly, after all the flashbacks are unwound, the oldest and newest part of the plot are ingeniously linked together.

(The only other film I recall having such deeply nested flashbacks is Passage to Marseille (1944)).

I haven't seen much of Laraine Day, but she was very impressive when featured, for example as co-star in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940). She is amazing here and I wonder that she didn't become a major star. Her beauty is like a fortress, protecting impenetrable secrets.

The segment with Mitchum gets the greatest amount of time and they are good together.

I don't know why I had never seen this before; it is an exceptional effort. I've been seeing quite a few films by director John Brahm lately and he always delivers a superior treatment.

Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca is not as famous as some, working on genre movies for Val Lewton as well as notable noir like Out of the Past (1947), but I'm always on the lookout for him these days. Here his lighting and composition are just stunning.

Musuraca began his Hollywood career as a chauffeur during the silent era; he ended it working on the TV series F Troop.

Melodramatic score by Roy Webb.

Available on DVD.