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B Noir: Among the Living and The Spiritualist

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B Noir: <em>Among the Living</em> and <em>The Spiritualist</em>

Among the Living (Stuart Heisler, 1941) and The Spiritualist (Bernard Vorhaus, 1948). Stuart Heisler’s Among the Living is a poor man’s gene-splice of Fury and Frankenstein that reminded me of all those cheesy moments from All My Children when David Canary has to play both Adam and Stuart Chandler in the same shot. Less noir than cornball thriller (the rich-poor divide of the film scarcely passes for moral and social import), the story follows a man who learns that the twin brother he thought was dead is really alive and causing havoc in the town near their childhood home. It stars Susan Hayward, in an early role, as the “evil” twin’s girlfriend and Frances Farmer as the “good” twin’s wife, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as a remarkably sustained chase sequence through the side streets and docks of the film’s slum that ends with a chilling dramatic pause—the film’s sole, must-see highlight. Bernard Vorhaus’s The Spiritualist (a.k.a. The Amazing Mr. X), a gothic melo-noir about a psychic consultant scamming a rich woman whose husband ostensibly died years ago, isn’t much better, paling in comparison to the slightly more plausible and impressively circumscribed My Name Is Julia Ross. Even John Alton’s camerawork feels a little lame, suggesting in the film’s best scene—a nighttime beach stroll that introduces the story’s best character and most inspired performer (a crow!)—a Humoresque rip.

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.