shadowy terrors on a budget

[Shadow of Terror played in the Roxie Theater‘s film noir festival “I Wake Up Dreaming: The French Have a Name for It.”  It played in a double bill with Storm Over Lisbon (1944).]

Affable enough and at a briskly-paced 60 minutes not long enough to ever outstay its welcome, Shadow of Terror (Lew Landers, USA, 1945) is an ultra-cheapie PRC production clearly made on a non-existent budget, and features a convoluted mess of a plot that involves amnesia (that old chestnut), government secrets, a tortured romance, and mistaken identities.  Once again, this isn’t really noir per se, but rather a gritty little black and white production that fits unobtrusively into a larger overview of the historical and stylistic movement.  However, rather contrary to traditional noir associations it prominently features Emmett Lynn as a folksy, knee-slapping prospector type (he plays a rancher here), and, more memorably, the action largely takes place in expansive rural spaces, and a sweltering, desolate desert is effectively used as a tool for physical and emotional torture by the main villain and his sadistic henchmen.

But the film primarily remains notable today for one reason: because of its quick filming schedule–a mere seven days or so–it was able to insert at the very last minute government footage of atomic test blasts in New Mexico was spliced into the ending, and get the film into theaters just days after the bombing of Japan which brought World War II to a swift close.  It must have seemed ultra prescient at the time of its release with its “ripped from the headlines!”quality, but today this otherwise generic little espionage flick boasts of a climax that brings to mind both the harrowing implications of the last moments of Kiss Me Deadly and–because it is so abruptly and strangely integrated into the overall film–the darkly surrealistic humor of Dr. Strangelove.


One thought on “shadowy terrors on a budget

  1. Hold on to yr reviews of these “obscure” pix.
    At some point : a book ! “Forgotten/Unknownies.”
    Im serious.

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