Film Score: Roy Webb Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Starring: Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, Robert Mitchum and Fay Helm
The Locket is an odd tale, more melodrama than noir. But when one really thinks about it, the film fits right in to the RKO ethos of the time with their emphasis on women-in-peril pictures. Even Val Lewton’s horror unit had the same emphasis, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Seventh Victim, etc. It’s also a rather interesting construction as the story is told in a series of flashbacks. Brian Aherne shows up at the house of Gene Raymond on the day of his wedding to warn him that something is very wrong with his bride. He then proceeds to tell him about his experience with Laraine Day.
Aherne’s story begins with meeting Day and getting married to her. Then one day, at his psychiatric practice, Robert Mitchum walks in and tells him that his wife is a thief and a liar, and that she withheld information about an innocent man about to be executed, the implication being that his wife may have been the actual murderer. Mitchum begins his own story about meeting Day and falling in love. He’s a painter and after a party at one of his client’s houses, he finds a stolen bracelet in her handbag. She breaks down and confesses, relating a childhood incident in which she was falsely accused of stealing a locket from another little girl. But when Mitchum finds her leaving the room of a dead man at another party, and another necklace is missing, it’s too much. He protects her and another man is convicted of the murder, but she leaves him when she learns Mitchum can never trust her again.
And this is just the beginning of the convoluted tale. The print I watched was a tad bit murky and the sound a little muffled. But this may be the best print available as it is definitely a lesser RKO film and probably not destined for restoration. The film also has a nice score by the great Roy Webb, a suite of which is available on CD. The direction by John Brahm is interesting though certainly not spectacular. He had done a series of horror film for Fox, including Undying Monster and The Lodger, but spent most of his career in television. The best part about Sheridan Gibney’s script is that the true explanation for Day’s behavior is left unclear until the very end of the picture. As a result it gives the whole story an eerie quality were the viewer is put in the same position as her many conquests.
Robert Mitchum is seems no more like a painter than Edward G. Robinson did in Scarlet Street. And it’s also strange to see him suffering under the kind of moral predicament that wouldn’t even phase most of his noir characters. It’s an odd fit, but the rest of the cast does a good job. Laraine Day is an excellent choice as the enigmatic woman who can appear alternately evil and innocent with complete conviction. Child actor Sharyn Moffett, who was great in Lewton’s The Body Snatcher, is terrific as the young Day. And it’s great to see Fay Helm in any film. At the end of the day, The Locket is a rather mediocre film, but still has enough to recommend it as long as you’re not expecting greatness.