Saturday, August 11, 2018

Man In the Dark (1953) 3D Noir

This was the first stereoscopic 3-D feature ever released by a major American studio, Columbia Pictures.

Directed by Lew Landers (Crime, Inc. (1945), Danger Street (1947), Inner Sanctum (1948)) the film is a remake of the 1936 Ralph Bellamy crime film The Man Who Lived Twice (1936). The adaptation was by William Sackhein the screenplay was re written by George Bricker and Jack Leonard from the story by Tom Van Dycke and Henry Altimus. The cinematography was by Floyd Crosby (High Noon (1952), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Cry Baby Killer (1958), I Mobster (1959), Night Tide (1961)).  The music was by Ross DiMaggio, musical director, and the Music Department.

The film stars Edmond O'Brien (eleven Classic Noir) as Steve Rawley, Audrey Totter (eight Classic Noir) as Peg Benedict, Ted de Corsia (six Classic Noir) as Lefty, Horace McMahon (Blackboard Jungle (1955), and Naked City TV Series (1958–1963)) as Arnie, Nick Dennis (Sirocco (1951), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and Kiss Me Deadly (1955)) as Cookie, Dayton Lummis (four Classic Film Noir) as Dr. Marston, and Dan Riss (nine Classic Film Noir) as Jawald.  

No way was I going to be able watch this in 3D on my home screen.  Incidentally, it worked just fine in 2D. However, even without it's 3D technique, Man In The Dark with the majority of it's cast so well steeped in Classic Film Noir can definitely be considered your basic a "meat and potato" Noir. Its has it all, the cinematic memory, your classic amnesia story, this time with a medically induced twist, the forgotten cache of stolen loot, the skirt with change of heart, the iconic denouement with a roller-coaster, and all done 70 minutes.

Steve Rawley (O'Brien) is in stir. Doing a dime. Christmas Eve Armed Robbery. Armored car payroll. He was carrying the loot. The swag, never recovered. He stashed it right before he got caught. His gang Lefty (de Corsia), Arnie (McMahon), and Cookie (Dennis) want it. Steve's gal pal Peg (Totter) wants him out.

Steve (O'Brien)

Peg (Totter)
Left to right, Lefty (de Corsia), Steve, Cookie (Dennis), and Arnie (McMahon)

Jarwald (Dan Riss)
Steve agrees to an experimental procedure developed by Dr. Marsden (Dayton Lummis). The guinea pig gets immediate parole. It sounds awfully close to a lobotomy. Steve emerges from surgery happy gentle but also with amnesia. He doesn't remember who he is, what he did or more importantly, to an insurance company rep Jawald (Dan Riss). what he did with the un-recovered $130,000.


the operation

the operation 3D

nice guy
His gang also wants the moola. Everyone, except his doctor, believes Steve is faking.

Steve's blissful existence of gardening and oil painting is suddenly shattered when Lefty, Arnie, and Cookie kidnap Steve out of the institution.

They hole up at an apartment near Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica. They want their money. When the gang recounts to Steve the details of their daring daylight robbery we see it in flashback. Their hopes are dashed when Steve still tells them that he doesn't know anything, he's a man in the dark. Peg gets Steve alone, she tells him to give up his act and they can split with all the cash. she gets friendly he's unresponsive. Steve doesn't recognize her.  Lefty begins to get tough and Steve is roughed up. He still cant tell what he doesn't know.

the kidnapping

roughing Steve up

Peg begins to believe Steve. They both flee the apartment. Steve begins to have dreams. Fragments of his forgotten past begin to return. He remembers a post office, and the amusement pier. When they search his old apartment they find a piece of paper taped to the bottom of a drawer. On it are four numbers. Is it a combination, a deposit box, an apartment?  It's Noirsville.



3D cigar to the eye threat

Cookie (Dennis)

3D gun effect

the robbery flashback sequence

Pacific Ocean Park's Fun House - Laughing Sal 

 flashback sequence

 flashback sequence

3D flower pot off the fire escape, coming at ya

dream sequence

The film is a neat little time waster, all the principles have been in better Noirs but this one delivers what it promised. Worth a look, and a even a purchase for the  whip dream sequence and Pacific Ocean Park, High Boy (Sea Serpent) roller coaster denouement, screen caps are from a TCM presentation. 6/10


  1. I have never even heard of this one. Can't really go wrong with Edmond O'Brien and Audrey Totter. I'll try to find it.