September 20, 2018

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF and the Things We Do for Love
Starring Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, John Dall, Lisa Howard, Harlan Wade. Directed by Felix E. Feist. (1950/82 min). 


Review by Mr. Paws😺

I'm relatively late to the party when it comes to film noir. Sure, I've seen the indisputable classics, but wasn't until doing Blu-ray reviews that I've come to love this dark new world. Well, it's new to me anyway.

Part of my growing appreciation for the genre might stem from personal experiences. As a teacher in the real world, I've seen more than my share of hopelessly whipped teenage boys engaging in a variety of dumbass behavior for the sake of a girl. I seem to recall being guilty of such actions in my own youth, as well.

Isn't that the modus operandi of most film noir?

Here, the dumbass in-question is Edward Cullen (Lee J. Cobb), a hardnosed San Francisco cop whose married girlfriend, Lois (Jane Wyatt), shoots and kills her estranged husband. Accidentally? Hmm...that's debatable, but in true twitterpated teenager fashion, Cullen dumps the body near the airport, makes it look like a mugging, then tosses the gun into the bay. Ironically, his younger brother Andy (John Dall) is assigned the case. New to the force and eager to make a good impression, Andy looks to Edward for assistance and advice. This sets up a wonderfully complicated quandary for Edward: mentoring his brother through the investigation of a crime he took part in. Naturally, circumstances begin to spiral wildly out of control.

"Admit're lost."
Lean, mean and economically made, The Man Who Cheated Himself is a solid example of classic film-noir on a limited budget. The casting is interesting, as well. Cobb displays an outward cynicism that's perfect for the character; even as his plan begins to unravel, it's almost as though part of him expected them to. I've always admired John Dall's work in Rope and Gun Crazy, and he's equally interesting here, playing against-type as someone who's actually likable and sympathetic. However, I do concur with the general consensus that Jane Wyatt is out of her element. Fortunately, most of the film focuses on the Cullen brothers' increasingly adversarial relationship.

This neglected gem has a new lease on life on Blu-ray with a terrific restoration from Flicker Alley. It includes an outstanding 20 minute retrospective documentary featuring TCM's "Noir Alley" host Eddie Muller, author Raymond Feist (the director's son) and a few other film experts. A fascinating look at the film's production background, it's difficult not to appreciate what director Felix Feist was able to put together in five days with almost no budget.

Seldom mentioned among the great noir classics of the era, The Man Who Cheated Himself is nevertheless a lot of seedy fun, with a perfect final shot that speaks volumes about the genre's enduring appeal without using a single word. As this and countless other noir films continue to demonstrate, some guys never stop acting like teenagers. It's a theme that never gets old.

"THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF LOCATIONS" - A montage comparing locations as they appeared in the film and how they look today.

No comments: