Article #1496 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2005
Posting Date: 9-16-2005
Directed by Arch Oboler
Featuring Phyllis Thaxter, Edmund Gwenn, Henry H. Daniels Jr.
A woman leaves her home and fiancé at the urging of her evil alternate personality.
Arch Oboler was the writer/producer/director of the radio show “Lights Out” before moving into a cinema. This was his first directorial effort, based on an adaptation of a story called “Alter Ego” that he had done for his radio show. It must have made for a fine radio presentation; as a movie, however, it doesn’t quite work. There’s a lot of dialogue here that would have worked fine over the radio, but on screen, it feels artificial, forced and self-conscious. As a director, Arch Oboler knows a few cinematic tricks, and this movie has a few of them; unfortunately, they feel like tricks rather than part of the real action, and they stand out like sore thumbs. The story doesn’t stand up quite as well as it could; I think Oboler made a mistake by making the girl’s alternate personality such a mean-spirited, snarling villainous hussy (whenever she talks, it sounds like she’s trying to do an imitation of one of Edward G. Robinson’s gangsters) because it makes the whole experience seem less unsettling and more like a standard good-versus-evil situation. Still, there are nice touches the story, and Edmund Gwenn is memorable as a psychiatrist. Oboler would go on to direct other genre efforts such as FIVE, THE TWONKY and THE BUBBLE.