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An RKO B-film from 1940, done up in high Hollywood expressionism. It's absurdly overwrought (which was often the problem with the German variety), but interesting for it. The director, Boris Ingster, is better with shadows than with actors—venetian blinds carve up the characters with more fateful force than Paul Schrader's similar gambit in American Gigolo, and there's a dream sequence that has to be seen to be disbelieved. The forgotten John McGuire stars as a reporter haunted by the thought that he may have sent an innocent man to the chair, while Peter Lorre (the ostensible lead) creeps around as the embodiment of absolute evil. Ingster punctures his Dostoyevskian pretensions with witty asides on his guilt themes, creating an effectively creepy, curdled vision (though the ending is a letdown). With Margaret Tallichet and Elisha Cook Jr.

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