a strange noir, but i can’t exactly say why. the subjects (carnival folk) of the film are certainly unconventional for noir, but that’s not all that makes it a strange picture. the lead male sometimes acts like a femme fatale might (plotting, using sex to his advantage, etc.). that said, the true femme fatale of the picture trumps him in the end. the film also addresses the issues of demagoguery and alcoholism – issues that aren’t generally associated with the noir genre. true, lost weekend (ray milland) was about alcoholism, but generally i think that noirs aren’t associated with these issues.
the plot, roughly, follows a carnival worker who poses as a psychic and uses his gift of gab and ability to read people to his advantage. he rises from a minor position at the carnival to a national spiritual figure through his ability and deceptive, illegal tactics (which entail enlisting the help of a local shrink to get advantageous information on key figures). it reminded me a bit of elmer gantry or leap of faith in this way, but it predates both. in the end he gets his comeuppance in a fitting fashion.
the two things that separated this film were the different subjects it tackled, and the femme fatale reveal – which was pretty damned chilling. tyrone power was quite convincing at all points during his (d)evolution – as young upstart, confident demagogue, and lowly alcoholic wash-up. mike mazurki (night and the city) plays a brutish carnival hand and does his usual job with it. coleen gray (killing, red river, kiss of death) does a good job as the young wife-to-be of power’s. she is vulnerable without being weak, young and good looking without being naive.