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A nice little noir-type movie
klg1912 August 2005
I imagine there will be many who dispute the characterization of "Impact" as film noir, and I can't blame them. It's not photographed in typical noir fashion, to be sure, but its themes are definitely in the noir neighborhood. There is a stark contrast between the murderous doings in San Francisco (and on the road), and the pastoral joys of Larkspur, Idaho--a contrast that is emphasized by the score, which favors harp and flute for Larkspur and dramatic strings, or even complete silence, for the rest of the film.

Brian Donlevy turns in a solid performance as the loving husband and successful industrialist who discovers his beloved wife is scheming with a lover to kill him; the scene where he breaks down after realizing this is more than solid, and reveals a depth of emotional understanding that Donlevy rarely showed, or at least got the chance to show. Helen Walker is just tremendous as the scheming wife, whose lightning-fast wit helps her transfer the murder rap from herself to her husband, despite her surprise at his being alive at all.

Charles Coburn slips in and out of an Irish brogue as the detective who suspects Walker and supports Donlevy, even at the expense of undercutting the D.A.'s case. Anna May Wong has a small role that emphasizes how the years have worn on her since her beautiful turn in "Shanghai Express." Philip Ahn has an even smaller role as Wong's uncle, who responds to Coburn's condescending query, "You savvy English?" with an urbane "Yes. Also French, Italian, and Hebrew" (reminiscent of his character years earlier in "Something to Sing About").

The plot gets a little convoluted, and the triumphant ending may seem like a bit of an anticlimax, but "Impact" should still be better known than it is.
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Many memorable moments
manuel-pestalozzi26 May 2003
Whoever likes movies of the late Forties should not miss this one. It tells a typical film noir story that is coherent and easy to understand. Impact is a quite artful picture, obviously made by first rate professionals. The balance between location shooting (mainly in and around San Francisco) and the extraordinarily stylish sets is in my opinion perfect and well thought out. At the center of the story is the attempted killing of the main character by his wife's lover. The car with the two men drives at night along a sinuous mountain road. It slows down and stops because of a flat tyre. As the viewers already know, this is the spot where the murder should take place. With unbelievable ease the natural surroundings (reminding you of the dramatic climax in Hitchcock's Family Plot) change into an almost expressionistic stage set with artificial fog at the bottom and everything. It is an unforgettable moment. What the film people could achieve in those days!

Brian Donlevy has some very good moments. As after a phone call he fully realises that his wife who he naively loved (calling himself "Softy" in his messages to her) had cheated and betrayed him, he stumbles to a bench on a station platform, stares into the void with dim eyes and then starts crying with rage and frustration. The scene takes almost a minute and proves that Donlevy is a much underrated actor who should be honored more.

Apart from the realistic presentation of parts of San Francisco in the late Forties (it complements Welles‘ impressions in Lady from Shanghai"), Impact has some nice pieces of slang (at least to a foreigner whose mother tongue is not English). "Grovel a shuteye" for "taking a nap", that's nice, isn't it?
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Great acting, great movie
sbibb128 March 2004
A good example of a little known "film noir," this 1949 film was shot primarily on location in San Francisco.

There is good acting all around, from the main stars down to supporting cast, and the plot does tie together nicely.

Look for Mae Marsh, a silent film star who plays Ella Raines mother, and also look for a brief cameo appearance by syndicated columnist and radio personality Sheila Graham, playing herself of course.

Brian Donlevy, who made similar "noir" films, among them D.O.A., appears to be right at home in this film, and is wonderful in an understated way.

The film, at almost 2 hours in length was a bit long for the time, and might drag a bit, but is worth watching.

Anna Mae Wong plays the maid in this film, an old time character actress from the days of silent films, she has a small but all important role in the film, for she holds the key (literally) to how the whole movie ends. Listen for some degrading Chinese music when Ms. Wong is on the run.

Interesting note, Helen Walker who plays the scheming wife in the film, was involved in a major scandal of her own. On New Years Eve, 1946, she was driving home some hitchhiking soldiers near Redlands, California. Walker, apparently drunk at the wheel, got into a car accident in which one of the soldiers was killed and the other two badly injured. Though in the end exonerated of any guilt from the accident, it seemed to plague her for the rest of her life, and she slipped deeper and deeper into depression.
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Great photography, great acting, tight and twisty plot. See it!!
secondtake13 March 2010
Impact (1949)

An underrated, understated, nicely stylized, and tightly constructed film noir. The director, Arthur Lubin, is a B-movie figure (with a lot of films to his name), and I'm going to guess just from this one that there are others in the history that are very good. This has been running the noir circuits for a long time, and is especially noteworthy. The photography by Ernst Laszlo is especially helpful, and with some smart editing it makes for a visually terrific movie.

But the acting is great, too. Yes, everyone fills some familiar roles for this kind of upper crust murder and cover up, but it's tightly done, convincing throughout. Brian Donlevy is a fabulous (and typically Donlevy) industrialist who has to take on a second identity for part of the film, and it's a great surprise. The two lead women, both the same age (29), and both with short careers, play two very different types of women that the industrialist bounces between. The first, Helen Walker, is the clever, rich wife. The second, Ella Rains, is the homespun girl who wants only for everything to turn out okay. (Rains was a Howard Hawks discovery, and with her classic clean cut looks, even made it on the cover of Life Magazine twice, on February 28, 1944 and August 11, 1947.)

One other character whose performance is sterling is Charles Coburn, playing the aging detective. A lesser role, but from a remarkable actress, is the maid, played by Anna May Wong (who got stereotyped in the movies but who is now increasingly appreciated as the first major Chinese-American actress).

Yes, this is a great film for film buffs, and a really good story for everyone. Make sure you have a clean DVD transfer to appreciate the photography (see for some info on that kind of thing).
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"No, seriously darling, run along and buy your little factories and hurry home."
classicsoncall14 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's unfortunate that this film doesn't have more of a reputation. Had it not been for a four movie DVD compilation from Diamond Entertainment, I would never have come across it. The story involves a scheming wife out to murder her husband, a plot that backfires when her lover botches the job and winds up dying himself in a fiery crash. Poetic justice there, but the follow up is where things get interesting, as jilted protagonist Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy) spends his time trying to sort things out while keeping his real identity a secret.

Helen Walker turns in a strong performance as the two faced Irene Williams, a character you'll love to hate as the story progresses. She showed she could think on her feet when being tailed by a detective and when her husband unexpectedly shows up after his three month disappearance. It's somewhat of a surprise then when one of the 'keys' to her undoing winds up in her coat pocket.

I couldn't quite warm up to the romance between Williams and would be mechanic Marsha Peters (Ella Raines). Even in her garage gear she's an absolute knockout, and to be smitten with Donlevy's character seemed to be a bit of a stretch. Fortunately though, she had the tenacity and energy to team up with Detective Clancy (Charles Coburn). Credit Clancy with the suitcase connection that finally unhinged Mrs. Williams' story.

Everything about the late 1940's settings works well, from the busy streets of San Francisco to the bucolic trappings of Larkspur, Idaho. My own home town had the same type of fire department signal system used in the story while I was growing up, so that was a neat memory. I'm sure younger viewers will have no idea what the 'Klondike 2' telephone number is all about, and when was the last time your cab ride cost $1.15?

Throughout "Impact", I couldn't help drawing comparisons with another noir flick from a few years earlier, 1945's "Conflict" starring Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet. In that one, the scheming partner in a murder plot is the husband (Bogey), and the deed is done on top of a winding mountain road. It's got a clever twist that trips up the bad guy without using a trunk full of evidence. Both films suggest that some of the best noir efforts of the '40's and '50's had single word titles.
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Interesting drama of murder.
rmax30482327 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Brian Donlevy is a wealthy business executive who loves his wife, Helen Walker. That's reasonable enough. She's an elegant dish with a voice as mellow as nectar. She's sweet to him too, but behind the smile is deceit, adultery, conspiracy to murder. She has a boyfriend, Tony Barrett, and they intend to murder good guy Donlevy.

The plan is this. Donlevy is about to drive out of town on a business trip and Walker asks him if he'd be kind enough to drive her "cousin", the ruthless Barrett, with him. The considerate Donlevy does so, but once out of San Francisco, Barrett beans Donlevy with a lug wrench and leaves him for dead in a ditch. Barrett's final words before the wrench drops: "This is for me and Irene, sucker." Barrett then makes his getaway in Donlevy's neat Packard convertible but smashes at high speed into a gasoline tanker and is burned beyond recognition. The police naturally conclude the remains are those of Donlevy. They inform the grieving widow, who sobs convincingly, and looks forward to a rendezvous with both Barrett, whom she believes to be still around somewhere, and with the immense wealth that Donlevy has supposedly left her.

Donlevy comes around and gets hold of a paper informing him that he's dead. His wife has made no mention of her "cousin" and Donlevy's most bitter suspicions are confirmed.

I guess I'll have to make this exposition shorter.

Donlevy doesn't go to the police. He wanders into a town in Idaho and gets a job as an auto mechanic at Ella Raines' gas station. It's one of those small Western villages where the blazing sun turns everything pale gold, the poplar leaves flutter when the breeze stirs, a tranquil river flows nearby, everybody knows everybody else, the people are trusting and generous and treat oddballs kindly, and all the men belong to the volunteer fire department. Says Raines' mother to Donlevy: "When you trust folks, you trust 'em." If you didn't already know it was a fairy tale, the music would tell you. In the dramatic city scenes, the score turns into a dramatic frenzy. In the dreamy little town, a melodic flute cops its style from "Peer Gynt", which is apt not only in helping establish the atmosphere but in suggesting Donlevy's embittered solitude. He loves Raines too, but he's no longer capable of making that kind of emotional commitment.

Then it gets complicated. Scraps of evidence -- measured in "shreds," as in "shred of evidence" -- keep turning up that implicate the wife and she winds up in jail. Donlevy decides after a few months that he can't let his wife fry for something she didn't do, so he returns to the city and tells his story. Walker, the quick-witted fabulist and an actress of rare talent, twists everything around to make Donlevy appear guilty of murdering Barrett out of jealousy. Donlevy takes Walker's place in jail and a trial follows. You can guess the outcome.

One thing that bothered me all the way through after Barrett's attempt to murder Donlevy. Why didn't the victim go immediately to the cops? Wouldn't it have been more sensible than hitch hiking to Idaho? I was finally able to figure it out. If he had gone at once to the police there would have been no movie. That's why the Indians always try to shoot the stagecoach passengers and never the horses. It's why Hamlet doesn't kill Claudius after chatting with the ghost.

The acting is all of professional caliber, nothing to be embarrassed about, except maybe Charles Coburns' Irish accent. Ella Raines is pretty enough in a mechanic's jump suit and her hair tucked under her cap, but she's smashing in a bare-shouldered white dress and her lustrous brunette hair loose. Donlevy is a burly presence, more convincing when he's grim than when he's trying to be nice.

Everything else is pedestrian. Arthur Lubin, the director, never simply suggests a hidden motive. He gives you a good clear shot of the sneer, the suspicious glance, the glazed look of adoration. But he has one subtle moment. When the District Attorney asks the court that charges be dismissed against Donlevy and that Walker be arrested, Lubin shows us Walker's surprised face. She turns her head to look at the judge, then her gaze drops slowly and the camera follows it down her arm until we see the bailiff's hand move to cover her wrist.
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Good Film-Noir With Interesting Story & Cast
Snow Leopard3 August 2005
The interesting story and cast help to make this a good film-noir, with an involved plot that keeps your attention even through a couple of slower stretches. In the lead role, Brian Donlevy gives a low-key performance that works pretty well.

Donlevy plays a talented but rather naive businessman who suddenly finds himself the target of his scheming wife and her calculating boyfriend. The story passes through several different stages, as the whole story gradually comes out. It's structured so that the audience knows much more than any of the characters do, and thus much of the suspense comes from wondering how they will react if and when they figure it all out.

As the scheming wife, Helen Walker is solid in conveying her character's deceitfulness. Ella Raines is satisfactory as a resourceful woman who befriends Donlevy's character. Charles Coburn gets a good amount of screen time as a detective, and although much of the time his character serves only to advance the plot, Coburn makes good use of his occasional opportunities to do more. Mae Marsh only gets a handful of scenes, but she has one good speech in a scene with Donlevy. Anna May Wong plays a character who is important to the plot, but unfortunately the role does not give her much of a chance to display her considerable acting ability.

Aside from meandering a bit at times, the story works pretty well. The various pieces of the movie fit together most of the time, and it maintains the tension effectively. As a whole, it's somewhat above average, and it should not disappoint most fans of its genre.
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"From Irene and me, sucker!"
utgard1414 November 2014
Successful businessman Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy) loves his pretty wife Irene (Helen Walker) more than anything. Little does he know she's plotting with her lover to kill him. During the murder attempt, Walter is hit hard on the head but lives. The other guy, however, is killed in a car crash and burned beyond recognition. Believed to have been the man killed in the crash, Walter decides not to come forward. Instead he goes to work as a mechanic in the garage of Marsha Peters (Ella Raines). When Irene is tried for his murder, Walter must decide whether or not to reveal he's still alive.

Brian Donlevy is pretty good. He's at his best when his character is angry or edgy. The sappy romantic stuff doesn't fit him well. Helen Walker is a particularly hissable villainess. Lovely Ella Raines is the good girl. There's no meat to the part but she does well with what she's given. Charles Coburn plays the detective out to get to the bottom of things. He's always fun. Arthur Lubin's direction in the first half is great film noir. I loved the scene where the lover tries to kill the husband. The whole thing was brilliantly executed. Then something happens and it's like a separate movie. The second half is much less like noir and more like a standard crime melodrama where a girl has to prove her guy is innocent of murder. If the entire picture had been like the first half, I'd say it was one of film noir's best. But it isn't. It's still an enjoyable movie with some good twists and turns.
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Well Written & Wonderfully Twisted
seymourblack-13 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This wonderfully twisted tale of the events that take place before and after an attempted murder is both highly entertaining and full of surprises. It was written by Jay Dratler who also co-wrote the screenplays for other film noirs such as "Call Northside 777", "The Dark Corner" and "Laura" and his skills as a storyteller and a writer of snappy dialogue are both in strong evidence in this movie.

Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy) is a wealthy industrialist whose wife Irene (Helen Walker) colludes with her lover, Jim Torrence (Tony Barrett) to murder him. She arranges for the two men to share a car journey to Denver during which they have to stop on a mountain road to change a wheel after a tyre (which Jim had previously damaged) suddenly blows. Jim uses the opportunity to hit Walter over the head with a wrench and leaves him for dead. As Jim prepares to continue his journey, a large van pulls up and the driver offers him assistance which he refuses, but this incident spooks him so much that he drives off in the car at high speed and accidentally crashes head-on into a tanker full of fuel. Walter regains consciousness in time to jump into the back of the van but soon passes out again.

When the wreckage of Walter's car is later discovered and the occupant is so badly burned that he's unrecognisable, the presumption is made that Walter is the dead man and further evidence found by the police soon leads them to believe that Irene is culpable.

Walter eventually arrives at the small town of Larkspur, Idaho where he's offered a job as a mechanic at a gas station run by an attractive young widow called Marsha Peters (Ella Raines). From a remark that Jim had made when he attacked him, Walter knows that his wife was behind the attempt on his life and so, when he reads in a newspaper about her arrest on suspicion of his murder, the opportunity to take revenge by doing nothing to help, becomes very attractive.

Walter and Marsha fall in love and when she learns about what happened to him she persuades Walter to do the honourable thing and return to San Francisco to tell the police his story. Unfortunately, when he does this, further unexpected developments follow and he finds himself charged with the murder of Jim Torrence.

"Impact" is a film in which certain sharp contrasts are made. The city is compared unfavourably with the small town where people are much more friendly and supportive, the difference between the evil Irene and the kind and decent Marsha couldn't be more stark and Walter's conduct in his professional and personal lives are also incredibly different.

When Walter first appears , he's seen as an extremely dynamic and forceful businessman but is then later shown as a very caring husband who Irene calls "Softy". He's also normally confident and direct in his manner but during his time in Larkspur, he goes through a period of confusion and self-doubt. The fact that Brian Donlevy is able to bring all these aspects of Walter's personality together in a believable way is very commendable and enjoyable to watch.

Helen Walker and Ella Raines are both excellent in their roles and Charles Coburn provides the pick of the supporting performances as the veteran detective who's assigned to investigate the case.
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In this world, you turn the other cheek, and you get hit with a lug wrench.
film-critic5 March 2006
I am a true believe that the best films that Hollywood ever produced came from the 1940s. Whether it was in the early 40s like the film Gaslight or later like Lean's Great Expectations, I have never seen so many great stories with so much originality, humanity, and creativity. Impact is no different. What transformed this picture from your typical film-noir thriller into a full-fledged murder/mystery is not just the creative story, but also the strong characters, the twisting themes, and the questionable ending. Impact could not have been as fascinating as it was if it were not for the impressive story. From the opening scene, we think that we have this film already pegged as your typical "wife cheats on man and he now wants revenge" story, but as director Arthur Lubin guides us further down his diabolical path, we learn that there is going to be more surprises than we originally anticipated. These surprises will not only lock your jaw in a shocked position, but it will also provide 111 minutes of pure uncut film-noir.

I have read other reviews that claim that Impact does not fall within the typical film-noir genre. I see where they are saying this, but I do not agree. Lubin, I believe, was creating a classy film-noir for his audience, but he tricked us. He not only tricked us from the beginning of the film to the end, but also where the film-noir style should be placed. We assume that the because Brian Donlevy is our centralized character that he has to be the dark and brooding one the entire time, causing the sensation of film-noir. I saw this film in a different light. As Lubin kept Donlevy in the eye of the camera for most of the film, I thought that the true sinister, dark, brooding, spooky, and edgy character was Irene. Helen Walker did a superb job with this role. Not only did she portray the backstabbing wife with such precision and ease, but she also played this very strong character that I was not expecting. That sensation of film-noir with the themes of suspicion, anxiety, and pessimism are all collected well within Walker's portrayal of Irene. It is this character that fully embodies the idea of film-noir, and I couldn't keep my eyes off her the entire film. To see such a powerful female character in such an early age of Hollywood impressed me. I do not see why Impact has not made a bigger impression in the film communities. It is a landmark film that will keep you guessing in a better way than any Shyamalan film will.

Even if you cannot agree with me about Lubin's slight of "film-noir" hands, it is unmistakably true that Impact contains some of the best story coupled with acting that we have seen in quite a long time. Even in today's Hollywood you just do not see this type of intensity, excitement, and curiosity as you found in Impact. I would not be surprised if we eventually saw a remake of this film in the future. It has all the elements that one would desire to be a box-office sensation; an evil wife, a passionate husband, and a dark secret. Who wouldn't love to see this? I personally could not keep my eyes off the story or the actors in this film. Brian Donlevy was beyond normal as the disarmed man facing the truth that his wife is no longer in love with him. This being my first Donlevy film, I cannot wait to see other pieces of his work. I think he was both strong and weak enough to carry the picture. He had to show that he still loved his wife, no matter what she did, and he pulled it off with so much dedication that I nearly wanted to stand up and clap for him in my living room. I have already spoken on Irene, who I believe matched Donlevy straw for straw. Lubin needed a character that was going to counter Donlevy's like-ability, and Helen Walker did just that. As audience members, we wanted to love her and hate her at the same time. Ella Raines was nothing spectacular, but did bring this light pro-feminism theme into this light film-noir thriller. Tony Barrett was the epitome of evil; never breaking character and always making me feel slimy. My personal favorite character was Lt. Tom Quincy. I have seen many parodies when they would use the southern flatfoot, but I had never seen a film that utilized this cliché character. Impact did it and Charles Coburn perfected it. As he attempted to solve the crime, he used the vice of kindness and dedication, making this critic smile with delight. He carried the truth of this film on his back without any struggle at all.

Overall, I thought that Impact was yet another great film that I can attribute to the 1940s. I don't know who the brains were during this cinematic time, but I wish I could go back and shake their hands. Their imagination, ability to keep audiences guessing, as well as produce great "B" level actors giving more than 100% of their abilities to a film is nearly impossible to find today. I would have loved to live during this era and see these films in the smoky auditoriums packed with untouched minds. Impact was nearly flawless. I guess it dragged sometimes, and the ending seemed to be wrapped up a bit too quickly (again, the happy factor wasn't needed at the end), but this film kept my attention throughout. I cannot wait to show this movie to friends and family. To fully see where we get our ideas for our films in the year 2006, we must make sure that we respect the films from the 1940s. Impact should be at the top of every film enthusiast's list!

Grade: ***** out of *****
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high octane noir
bengleson23 August 2005
This film noir has three distinct movements. Brian Donlevy proves masterful at playing a high-powered executive, self-satisfied and in control. As in any good drama, his secure world is assaulted and turned upside down The film portrays his characters descent, loss of faith and subsequent redemption. Donlevy handles each of the stages well.

Helen Walker is brilliant as Donlevy's wife. Her ability to portray a duplicitous and homicidal spouse is immaculate in it's delivery.

I found great pleasure in watching the legal machinations and the ambivalence of the justice system.

More then anything, and I've commented on this in other film noir reviews, I enjoyed the street scenes of San Francisco a half century ago. Sometimes I think I'd be just as happy to forgo plot in favor of travelogue Also, Larkspur (whether it is in California or Idaho,) just seems like a fine little town the likes of which we now pine for. The volunteer fire department scene was reflective of my sense of small town values.

All in all, an absorbing,nostalgic and thought provoking piece of film art.
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My Personal Choice as Best Film Noir Ever.
vitaleralphlouis19 August 2005
Although there are some flaws in this film, I rate it a 10 for the best ever Film Noir if for no other reason than I've watched it over and over for 55 years. The 2005 smash hit TV show LOST is themed in the concept of renewal, as is "IMPACT." Thinking he has a perfect life, Brian Donlevy will soon find out he's standing on a mountain of betrayal. He'll go from being a top level businessman (with an apartment on Nob Hill, at the building across from the Fairmont Hotel, the one with the walled in parking lot out front, where everybody in San Francisco film noirs lived in the 1950's... Never mind!) Anyway, as he recovers from the daze of attempted murder he'll accidentally stumble upon a new and quite different life, one that most any of us could enjoy. Then come the hard choices..... I first saw this movie on a single day booking at the Silver Theatre at age 11. What stuck in my mind after seeing it is that if life ever went sour to the point of contemplating suicide, a wise alternative might be a fake suicide --- followed by a renewed and drastically different second life, as in this movie. There was no suicide, fake or otherwise, in this picture; but I thought that was a healthy idea to place into a young viewer's mind; whether intended or not. Then there's Ella Raines. Hmm! Friends, forget Marilyn Monroe or any of the other 1950's sexpots. Keep Marilyn, do what you like, I don't care. Just introduce me to Ella Raines. Pretty, thin, lithe, smart. Yum!
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Film noir meets Frank Capra.
dbdumonteil27 October 2002
Although the final third gets in the way and is finally disappointing,it does not keep "impact" from being absorbing and entertaining.One of the rare film noirs -maybe the only one - which takes a look on the brighter side of the road:sandwiched between two very dark parts,the second one has Capra accents:the country town is some Shangri-la where time stood still ,with its very nice people ,the girl who owns a garage but of course does not know anything about mechanics(woman's lib supporters will cringe),the young father proud of his new-born son ,the Sunday service,the old lady cooking tasty little dishes.All of this is unusual in a film noir.Some might say that "shadow of a doubt"(1942) had already that ,but evil could enter this world,as the heroine 's uncle came to town.Here,the evil is elsewhere ,in San Francisco.Only in San Francisco.Or on the dark road where anything can happen:first part is effective,and shows some "Postman always rings twice" (1946) influence.
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Great unknown classic
funkyfry15 October 2002
Donlevy is a cuckolded husband whose wife and lover plan to kill him. Things go wrong and it is the wife's lover who dies in a fiery wreck, allowing Donlevy to assume a new identity as the mechanic for a garage owner who looks like a supermodel. After recovering from his temporary amnesia, he plans to watch his wife "get what she deserves" by waiting to come out until after she's in jail for murder (whose? I can't remember! But it all makes sense in the movie, believe me, it's just very twisted!). When he finally does come out, all big heart, she accuses HIM of her lover's murder! Good suspense, character acting, photography, with a lively pace. It's hard to figure out how talking animal movie specialist Lubin managed to pull this one off so well, but it will send me looking for other movies along this same vein by the director.
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Very good mystery-drama with twists
SimonJack13 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Impact" is an interesting and entertaining mix of film genres. I won't give away details of the plot and story, but just some generalities to whet the appetite of anyone looking for a good mystery to watch. It starts with some drama and romance, moves into suspense and skulduggery, then takes an unusual twist, then another unusual twist and another, and ends on romance.

This 1949 film is a very nice vehicle for Brian Donlevy who plays the part of Walter Williams. This film came about mid-point in Donlevy's career. At 48, he had already played a number of diverse roles. In 1940, he received an Oscar nomination for supporting actor in 'Beau Geste." He didn't reach the level of stardom of the big names of Hollywood, but he had a respectable portfolio for his film years. Whether he was a crook or a cop, a cowboy or a comic, Donlevy always entertained. He slowed down in his later years and did more work in TV roles than for the silver screen.

Ella Raines has a nice role opposite Donlevy, as a war widow who falls for this quiet but kind guy who knows how to fix cars. Raines is best known for her female lead in "Hail the Conquering Hero," made in 1944 while WWII was still begin fought. For a short career - just 29 credits including films and TV appearances, she played opposite some big stars of the time. Among them were John Wayne, Charles Laughton, George Sanders, Broderick Crawford, Randolph Scott, Dan Duryea, Edmond O'Brien, Burt Lancaster and William Powell. She had good roles in films that did well at the box office, but she chose to retire from films in 1956 - after just 14 years in Hollywood.

"Impact" doesn't have a large cast, but the supporting roles are all very good. Helen Walker plays a very good devious wife, able to cover up her chicanery with sweetness. This is toward the end of Anna May Wong's career, and she is very good. But Charles Coburn delivers the best supporting performance as detective Lt. Tom Quincy.

I wonder if other people - those who have been around a few decades, enjoy seeing scenes of familiar cities and towns, as I do. This one has some nice scenes, with late 1940s automobiles, clothing and other things. While those change over time, the street scenes from that area of San Francisco are probably the same these many decades later. They were when I last visited there a few years ago. And we can count on the fabled cable cars to continue operating for decades to come. They are part of the San Francisco culture - enjoyed and used by locals as well as tourists.

"Impact" isn't a fast-action film - not that many were in that time. It develops slowly, and after some crime-related scenes, it moves into a nice story of recovery, honesty, integrity and love. As I said - quite different than the usual fare of a crime drama film.
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Doing the Right Thing Never Works Out
claudio_carvalho30 April 2007
In San Francisco, the successful self-made businessman Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy) has just bought three factories in Denver with the approval of the board of directors. His beloved wife Irene (Helen Walker) tells him that she is not feeling well to travel with him, and asks Walter to give a lift to her cousin Jim Torrance (Tony Barrett). On the highway, Jim, who is actually Irene's lover, tries to kill Walter hitting his head and throwing him in a cliff, and has a fatal accident while escaping driving Walters's car. Walter is considered dead and later his wife is sent to jail accused of plotting his murder. Meanwhile, the wounded Walter sleeps in a moving van and awakes in Larkspur, a small town in Idaho. He is hired as a mechanic in a gas station by the owner, Marsha Peters (Ella Raines). For three months, Walter reads the news, expecting revenge with Irene sentenced to death, and he and Marsha fall in love for each other. When Walter discloses the truth to Marsha, she convinces him to return to San Francisco and save his unfaithful wife. The situation changes when Irene accuses him of plotting to kill her lover Jim, and Walter has to prove his innocence.

"Impact" is a great film-noir, with a melodramatic story full of twists. Helen Walker is perfect in the role of a cynical femme fatale, and Ella Raines is extremely beautiful and efficient in her role. Brian Donlevy performing a character of twenty-five years old is miscast. This is the greatest flaw in the screenplay, since he was a successful man that had worked for ten years as a worker and than reached a supervisory position. How could he be so powerful executive with this age only? Considering Walter Williams a man of forty and something years, the story becomes credible. This excellent unknown movie hooks the attention until the very last scene. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Impacto" ("Impact")
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Good Movie. Gorgeous Car!
Handlinghandel25 May 2006
The silvery Packard convertible Brian Donlevy drives is one of the most beautiful cars I've ever seen. It's basically all I'd remembered from years ago when a local a cable channel that no longer shows old movies ran a bad print of this from time to time.

Donlevy is not an exciting actor but he is fine. He plays an industrialist madly in love with his wife, who is not worthy of his devotion (to say the least.) She is played by Helen Walker, a specialist at cold, intelligent, sleek women. (She's the best part of "Nightmare Alley.") We also have Charles Coburn as a detective and Ella Raines as a girl who wants to help cuckolded Donlevy out of a predicament I can't reveal. (But remember: This is a film noir.) In her early scenes, Raines smiles too much and looks like an ad for gum. (And speaking of ads, yikes! This has one of the earliest examples of product placement: Someone offers Donlevy a Coke and for quite a while, in the foreground, is a Coca-Cola machine!) Also on hand is Mae Marsh as Walker's mother. She looks great and is very good. And Anna May Wong, one of Hollywood's greatest, most poorly used stars, is fourth-billed as Donlevy and Walker's maid.

The movie is not exactly suspenseful but it's a solid piece of work. The acting ranges from good to excellent and the plot, though it wanders a bit from time to time, is intriguing. It's also unusually literate: The characters speak in impeccable (though never stilted) English.
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Good Material -- Mediocre Results
dougdoepke1 June 2008
Too bad the movie's a disappointing crime thriller after a promising start. Brian Donlevy plays a high-powered corporate executive with a lavish apartment and a silken wife (Helen Walker). Trouble is the doe-eyed Walker has teamed up with a low-class lover (Tony Barrett) to plot Donlevy's murder. When that fails, Donlevy finds himself stranded in a small Idaho town where he settles in with new girl friend Ella Raines. However, police are still trying to unravel what happened at failed murder site, so an unresolved cloud hangs over both Donlevy and wife Walker.

Strong opening that nicely sets up the melodrama and Donlevy's betrayal. Middle part is unusual for crime drama since it celebrates virtues of small town life. Yet, it does so fairly effectively, such that even a hard-charging executive like Donlevy would find welcome escape from city life and a faithless wife. Last third, however, settles into routine suspenser as Raines seeks evidence to clear Donlevy.

Though movie contains noirish elements, particularly spider-woman Walker and destiny-crossed Donlevy, director Lubin films in flat, uninspired fashion that adds nothing to the script. In fact, his approach tends to drain excitement from those parts that should have impact. For example, the business around the doomed car needs a few emotional close-ups to emphasize the cat-and-mouse stalking going on. Instead, Lubin's camera remains at an impersonal distance as if it's a family outing being filmed. The movie's entire texture appears better suited to a police docu-drama than that of a man menaced by unseen forces.

Casting too, amounts to a problem. Donlevy's a fine character actor who could bring off authority figures with real conviction. As a high-powered executive, he's excellent; as a romantic figure, he's about 10 years too old and not much good at softer emotions. Then too, having the comely and much younger Ella Raines quickly fall for him is something of a stretch. A bigger problem lies in framing Walker's lover as something of a low-life, without the charm or polish that would naturally attract a high-class woman of her social standing. The script would have been wise to imply that Walker is just using him to get rid of her husband. Just as unpersuasive is the casting of a geriatric (72 year-old) Charles Coburn as a cop, even if he does manage some finesse. All in all, the oddball casting just doesn't work.

An exception is Helen Walker who's perfectly suited to her role as the devious woman. Watch her array of expressions as the cops close in. Her career was unfortunately slowed down by a debilitating accident and she died much too early . Though largely forgotten today because of her few credits, once you see her, you don't forget her with her "upside down" eyes, statuesque bearing, and unforced beauty. She's unforgettable as Tyrone Power's scheming nemesis in Nightmare Alley and could do comedy equally well, as in the hilarious Murder, He Says (1945). In my little book, she could easily qualify as an actress with a cult following.

Too bad that an Anthony Mann, Robert Siodmak, or Andre deToth didn't get hold of the material before the pedestrian Lubin. The premise is prime material for noir treatment, and with more astute casting, might have become a classic.
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writtenbymkm-583-90209731 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. I found this film enjoyable and even suspenseful at times, but ultimately frustrating. First, the good things. Unlike some reviewers, I liked Charles Coburn's aging and ready to retire police detective (except for the weird accent). I don't think it wouldn't added much to turn him into a tough gruff cop. And he was convincingly determined to do the job. Ella Raines, as others have mentioned, was good as the two-faced wife who wanted her husband, Brian Donlevy, dead. The little trick -- spoiler alert -- of having the wife's lover try to murder her husband, only to screw it all up and get himself killed, was good. And, at the very end, Charles Coburn's detective work was enjoyable. Now, the bad things. First off, I never believed for one second that Helen Walker's wife character would be even remotely attracted to Tony Barrett's character. He came across as a sort of low-class punk, someone you'd expect to find hanging out in a cheap bar and maybe robbing booze stores. Second, the husband, Brian Donlevy, is supposed to be this tough savvy business guy, yet he doesn't immediately see though the cheap punk character passing himself off as a "cousin," even with the obvious chip on his shoulder. Third, when the "cousin" is blown up and burned "beyond recognition," why wasn't an attempt made to match up his dental records? Didn't they have dental records in the 1940s? It wasn't even mentioned. Fourth, why was I supposed to believe that husband Brian Donlevy was suddenly transformed from a white-collar business guy to a master mechanic? Did I miss something? Maybe I dozed off. Fifth, the husband's name and photograph were all over the newspapers, he was instantly recognizable to anybody who saw the papers and his photographs, yet he roams around this little town and not one single person recognizes him! "Look, it's Walter Williams, the dead guy!" Sixth, the whole way too long small-town romance thing with Brian Donlevy and the girl (Ella Raines) was boring and unbelievable. It needed MST3K bots saying, "Meanwhile, in a different movie..." Finally, I didn't believe for a minute that Brian Donlevy's husband character would suddenly agree to return to San Francisco, walk into the police station, and say, "Well, here I am, alive and well, and oh by the way, I wouldn't come sooner but I had, er, uh (spoiler) amnesia -- yeah, right. And I didn't believe for a minute that the cops and prosecutors would, instead of thoroughly investigating this amazing new development, just snap their fingers and say, "Oh, wow, okay you're under arrest for murder, somebody get his wife out of jail." So, there were way too many problems with what could've been a pretty good (but not noir) crime suspense story.
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Not Quite Murder
wes-connors13 November 2014
After scoring big points with his board of directors, wealthy San Francisco businessman Brian Donlevy (as Walter "Walt" Williams) plans a romantic vacation with his beautiful, well-dressed wife Helen Walker (as Irene). Unbeknownst to Mr. Donlevy, Ms. Walker has scored a big point of her own, low-life lover Tony Barrett (as James "Jim" Torrence). They've got deadly plans for Donlevy, but things don't always go according to plan. Donlevy finds female companionship with 25-year-old Mobile service station operator Ella Raines (as Marsha Peters) while "smart cookie" lieutenant Charles Coburn (as Tom Quincy) investigates...

The Popkin brothers (Harry and Leo) were great at bringing suspenseful dramas to the screen; in this case, a story by Jay Dratler. This time they should have met with director Arthur Lubin to iron out some details in an otherwise fun film. We get several interesting twists and turns, but are almost derailed, due to some plot problems. There are a couple of implausible events worth mentioning. Just for starters, a character attempts to "murder" another by simply hitting him on the head; obviously, the "victim" was not dead. Also, a "victim" jumps into the back of a parked moving van instead of going up to the driver and asking for help...

From the opening "board of directors" meeting to seeing Robert Warwick as a police captain, "Impact" employs several former "silent" screen players. That's not unusual, but there are a few in prominent roles. The chic maid is Anna May Wong, memorable as a sexy young Asian woman in 1920s melodramas. She participates in one of the better story sequences, a chase (photographed by Ernest Laszlo) from Jason Robards' courtroom to her apartment. The landlady who discovers Donlevy's secret is Mae Marsh, one of D.W. Griffith's most acclaimed actresses. Of the four top-billed stars, Walker gets the best out of her role.

****** Impact (3/19/49) Arthur Lubin ~ Brian Donlevy, Helen Walker, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn
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Overall a great story, but with some big legal plot holes
AlsExGal25 May 2019
Brian Donlevy plays Walter Williams, a self made business man who prides himself on his cleverness and on his wife, upon whom he dotes to the point of sappiness. But his wife Irene (Helen Walker) wants to dump her handsome well off husband for slimy Jim Torrence. OK, so love is blind.

Irene comes up with a rather involved plan that gets her husband giving Torrence a ride to Denver, with hubby thinking he is a distant relative. On the way Torrence is supposed to kill Walter and make it look like a hitchhiker did it. Nobody knows where Walter went and with whom, so Irene could lie and say he went there alone.

But things don't go as planned and, although Jim hits Walter in the head with a wrench and rolls him into a ditch nearby, Walter is not dead. Scared by passing motorists who stop to see if he needs help, Jim rushes off in Walter's car and hits an oncoming gasoline truck. Jim is killed and his body burned beyond recognition. so everybody thinks it is Walter, including the not so grieving widow.

So meanwhile, based on Jim's last words to Walter, he knows that his wife plotted his death. His pride is as injured if not more than his head. He drifts until he finds himself in a small town in Idaho and makes a new life for himself working as a mechanic in a gas station owned by a beautiful war widow, played by Ella Raines.

Back in San Francisco, clever cop Tom Quincy (Charles Coburn) makes a case for Irene murdering her husband based on him finding out about the boyfriend. Walter is reading the papers and decides to just let Irene fry since she did intend to kill him anyways. So she has a boyfriend, the guy in the car DID burn to death, so there is no evidence any murder took place. Do the DA and judge not get this?

How does this work out? Watch and find out. I'll just say that for the production code to be fulfilled requires a second and equally "So what??" piece of evidence that doesn't prove a murder didn't take place anymore than Irene having a boyfriend proved one did take place. If you can ignore all that, it is a great story and I would recommend it.

With really good players, it is a shame this one is unrestored and in the public domain, but that also makes it easy to find and view.
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An excellent and heartfelt Brian Donlevy performance
nozmoking7 February 2009
As usual, Brian's deep, smoky voice and impish expressions kept me deeply engaged in anticipation of each unfolding situation. Supported exquisitely by Ella Raines with a very solid performance, the film moves through what could easily have been a thick and sluggish plot at a pleasing pace.

I've always enjoyed Brian's brilliant yet simple interpretation of his roles and this one is particularly refreshing and interesting. Charles Coburn's portrayal of a stuffy yet sharp and humorous cop adds a delightful bit of saltiness.

Rarely am I left disappointed that a film has come to its conclusion like turning the final page of a really good book; this is one of those films. I was left disappointed to be sure - only in the fact that it was over. "Impact" is a simply a very good film in nearly every way.
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Poignant and Charming
rjtrules3 January 2008
Just finished watching this as one of a 50 Classic Thriller Box set-this is a keeper! Thoroughly enjoyable on many levels-it was a real pleasure watching something from days gone by done so well. This has all the elements-murder, deceit, redemption and return to innocence. Oh-and some really great scenery and acting. The gal that played Marcia Peters is quite a looker for any day! Charles Coburn was a treat as the old retiring police detective-this one keeps you focused and moves fast with interest all the way to the end.

This movie is really much deeper than it appears on the surface-pay attention to the story behind the story here, it's a tale that one can appreciate given the trials and tribulations of life.
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Impact was a smash
yonhope17 June 2005
Hi, Everyone, Brian Donlevy is told by Mae Marsh he will think differently at age 50 than he thinks now at 25. She was well past 50 when this was made in 1949. So was Brian Donlevy. He is matched here with two ladies who were under 30 but it is quite believable.

The new Packard convertible looks nice. This was a time when an expensive convertible could be parked on the street while you shopped. You would leave the top down on the car. No Club on the wheel.

Ella Raines was beautiful. We see her working on the engine of a Kaiser with a hammer. Dumb broads. Brian Donlevy fixes the engine just by listening to it and tightening the mojo or something.

Brian's bad girl first wife Helen Walker is beautiful also but she has this silly notion about killing her husband. She has this loser Tony Barrett help her with the job but he is dumber than the girl with the hammer fixing the Kaiser. That's about it...

Except for Charles Coburn who could have taken his role as the older detective right into a TV series if it had been about ten years later. He is excellent in this. All the actors do a great job.

There is a Bekins moving van that appears to be a product insert. It is a great memory prodding sight. Moving vans used to look like that.

Both Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines died of throat cancer, strangely enough. They both left many wonderful films for viewers.

Tom Willett
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Impact, when two things collide.
Spikeopath20 February 2009
San Francisco industrial supremo Walter Williams survives an attempt on his life by his two-timing wife's lover, whom ironically is badly burned and killed at the scene himself. As the police think that Williams is the badly burned corpse, his wife is arrested and accused of his murder, with Williams hiding out and plotting revenge in the sleepy back water town of Larkspur, Idaho. But even as Williams finds new hope and re-evaluation of his life, he knows he must go back and reveal all about what happened, which is something that may well prove to be his undoing!

Impact is directed by Arthur Lubin and stars Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn and Helen Walker. The basic plot and story is certainly nothing new, and I will not list them, but other films such as "The Postman Always Rings Twice" spring to mind immediately upon finishing this smashing and enjoyable piece. However, what is definitely in pic's favour is that it's excellently acted (Donlevy and Raines a delight) and that it manages to bring about the main twist without any aura of inevitability hanging over it.

Sitting nicely between film noir and drama, Impact is a film that possibly wouldn't stand up to repeat viewings, yet once viewed I personally feel that it leaves a mark that is most definitely favourable - and I'm not just biased because Ella Raines is stunningly gorgeous here!!! 8/
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