Written by Jacques Companeez, Ernst Neubach, Simon Gantillion, and Leo Rosten
Directed by Douglas Sirk
Directed by Douglas Sirk after his flight from Germany, Lured really shows no signs of what he would become most renowned for in Hollywood, his melodramatic films that seemed mostly geared toward a female audience. While this film might not be the most compelling or suspenseful film ever made, it held my interest. Lured also featured Lucille Ball in her mid-thirties before she found her niche on the smaller screen.
Lucille Ball is Sandra Carpenter, a dance hall dancer from America living in England. When her best friend goes missing and is believed to be the victim of a serial killer known as “The Poet”, she’s hired by Scotland Yard as a female detective. She follows up leads in the personals column which is how her friend met the man she talked about prior to her disappearance.
As she is investigating, she is also falling in love with the dashing Robert Fleming (portrayed by George Sanders). He’s a club owner with a reputation as a ladies’ man. The women who seem to surround his every move buoy that reputation. The question becomes what is his involvement in the killing spree, as it becomes apparent he is somehow connected to the situation. Is he the man of Sandra’s dreams, or of her nightmares?
Although I figured out what was probably going to happen in the film part of the way through, the story was still suspenseful enough. There was enough of a chance that what I figured was wrong that I did feel the need to finish viewing just to learn what the outcome wouldn’t be. It wasn’t so predictable that I definitely knew what the final outcome of the story would be.
There were also a few twists thrown into the story, that in the end seem more like an unnecessary distraction. While trying to root out who the serial killer is, Sandra and company manage to uncover a deranged man still living in the heyday of his acting career on the stage, and what ends up being a white slavery ring. There is also little explanation as to why Fleming keeps company with the perpetrators of the White-Slave ring, which is where he and Sandra manage to hook up after a few brief encounters. It’s just expected that we believe London Society is such that he would be in the same circles as these men, something that was a bit of a distraction within the story for me.
The cast of Lured is amazing. In addition to Ball and Sanders, there’s a brief appearance by Boris Karloff as well as Alan Napier. The cast gels together quite well, although I couldn’t see Sanders as the dashing Fleming. Perhaps it’s just the difference in the times, but I didn’t find him to be a dashing, romantic figure. I couldn’t understand what drew the women to him as he seemed to collect them and throw them off at a whim.
Ball is terrific. Although the role might be considered weak, it’s important to remember that at the time this was made (1947), it wasn’t a common thing for women to be involved in police work. What does she do at the dance hall, but engage in conversation and pretend her suitors are interesting to get some money for the evening (although her goal is to be in a nightclub act – ha!) It’s easy to see how that brand of acting could transfer over to an undercover role pretending to answer ads in a personals column. Ball wears her emotions well, showing genuine concern for her friend as well as believably falling for Sanders, although I don’t know what she was seeing in him. She also comes off as intelligent and strong, rather than ditzy as we would come to know her in the future. This is a woman who would have probably clouted Ricky with a frying pan if he ever tried to tell her she couldn’t do something, not that Lucy didn’t have her ways…
The cast comes together nicely. The detectives who work with Sandra show an affection for her which is protective, much like a younger sibling rather than romantic. This makes the distance with which they keep themselves throughout the film believable while at the same time their concern for someone who has endeared herself to them is evident.
While Sirk manages to play some moments for all they are worth, Lured doesn’t come off as overly dramatic. The story might have been drawn out more than it needed to be, but that has more to do with the writing than with who the director was.
I think with a lesser actress (or less interesting actress), Lured wouldn’t have been quite as good as it is. I did enjoy it much more than I was expecting to and would recommend it to others, especially those interested in Lucille Ball’s earlier work before television.
Categories: Movie Reviews