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B Noir: The Dark Past and My Name Is Julia Ross

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B Noir: <em>The Dark Past</em> and <em>My Name Is Julia Ross</em>

The Dark Past (Rudolph Maté, 1948) and My Name Is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945). It’s not the obsession with Freud that’s the problem with Rudolph Maté’s The Dark Past but its lecture-hall hauteur. There’s a hilarious scene in the movie in which a psychologist-teacher played by Lee J. Cobb explains to an escaped con (William Holden) the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind before striking a comparison between these two parts of the mind and the upper and lower parts of an iceberg. A feeling of déjà vu during this scene led me (consciously) to Manny Farber’s Negative Space and—voila!—this excerpt from “The Gimp”: “Well, icebergs of a sort, one-tenth image, action, plot, nine-tenths submerged ’insights’ à la Freud or Jung, Marx or Lerner, Sartre or Saroyan, Frost, Dewey, Auden, Mann, or whomever else the producer’s been reading.” I quote Farber here because it’s comforting to know that there were people like him who felt equally condescend to by these gloppy Freud-obsessed productions when they first premiered. In short, a film that doesn’t arouse the senses—less a movie than a trip to the psychologist’s couch. I experienced more déjà vu during Joseph H. Lewis’s My Name Is Julia Ross, which stars Dark Past’s Nina Foch as a woman who is hired as a secretary by a rich biddy (Dame May Whitty) and her son as part of a murder-covering suicide scheme. Lewis gets you rooting quickly and fiercely for Foch, who is just amazing here. The film is loads of fun but isn’t as viscerally exciting as other films in the Jane Eyre School of Gothic Melo-Noir like Fritz Lang’s little-seen, Suspiria-inspiring The Secret Beyond the Door.

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