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With: William Terry, Virginia Grey, Helene Thimig, Edith Barrett, Anne O'Neal, Audley Anderson
Written by: Bryant Ford, Paul Gangelin, based on a story by Philip MacDonald
Directed by: Anthony Mann
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 56
Date: 12/09/0944

Strangers in the Night (1944)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Real Girls

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

No other Hollywood director had such an extreme career arc as Anthony Mann, culminating with expensive, gargantuan epics in the early 1960s (El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire), but starting out with some of the most wretchedly cheap "B" movies of the 1940s. Strangers in the Night is one of the latter, made before Mann began working with the great cinematographer John Alton or made Westerns with Jimmy Stewart.

Sgt. Johnny Meadows (William Terry) is on his way home from the war, and heading to meet a girl he has only corresponded with. (He found her name and address in a book of poetry, A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad.) On the train, he meets a lady doctor, Leslie Ross (Virginia Grey), and helps her out when the train crashes. Arriving at his destination, he discovers his lady love's mother, Mrs. Blake (Helene Thimig), with no girl to be found. Indeed, as Dr. Ross also discovers, there's something just a bit off about the old lady.

Mann may not have had much to work with here, and some of the scenes that require action are fairly ridiculous, but he generates a certain amount of suspense with his deft, snappy staging. And Edith Barrett is good as Mrs. Blake's nervous, paranoid housekeeper who tries to help. The final reveal is fairly dark and demonstrates just what "B" movies were able to get away with when the censors weren't looking. Nevertheless, this is mainly for fans of Mann; casual viewers of film noir probably won't find much to write home about.

Olive Films released it on DVD and Blu-ray in 2013.

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