In his introduction, Eddie Muller called the British film Corridor of Mirrors (1948) “probably the most unknown film on our (Noir City DC) schedule.” Muller also explained that British noir differs from American noir in several different ways, particularly in the British artistic response(s) to World War II, which often included art, fantasy, and obsession as ways to cope with war.
We certainly see that in Corridor of Mirrors, the first film directed by Terence Young (who also directed several early James Bond pictures. We have another James Bond connection coming up in a moment…) The film begins with Mifanwy Conway (Edana Romney) awakening to what appears to be a life of ease in a beautiful home with children, a loving husband, etc. But she’s keeping secret the fact that she’s going to travel to London to meet her lover at Madame Tussauds.
When Mifanwy arrives at the famous waxworks, we’re all awaiting the appearance of this mysterious lover when she stops before a wax statue of the murderous Paul Mangin, which also triggers noir’s best friend in any country, the flashback.
At a nightclub, Mifanwy meets a mysterious, debonair man who is, yes, Paul Mangin (Eric Portman, left), who begins a relentless pursuit of Mifanwy. Mangin brings her to his home, a breathtaking wonder filled with elaborate art like you’d see in some of the finest French period films. It soon becomes clear that Mangin is obsessed with the finer things and Mifanwy in particular, but – as we know – there’s a secret here… I won’t tell you much more except you’ll see shades of Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Vertigo (1958) in the film.
Corridor of Mirrors is wonderfully atmospheric and visually stunning, a beautiful film to look at and a pretty enjoyable (though now somewhat familiar) story to follow. Portman walks a fine line between sophistication and menace in every scene he’s in. Edana Romney is also visually stunning, which helps, since her acting pales in comparison to Portman. Romney’s is an interesting story: she not only acted in the film (her third and final movie appearance, although she did some TV), she also co-wrote it. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, she married British producer John Woolf, appeared in seven films/TV series, and stopped acting in 1957. Corridor of Mirrors is her only writing credit. (Anyone with more information on Edana Romney, please chime in.)
The film also marks the first movie appearance of Christopher Lee (right, looking over his shoulder), whom you’ll see seated at a table in an early nightclub scene. At that same table, you’ll find Lois Maxwell (far right) in her second credited movie appearance. Maxwell, of course, would become the first film actress to play Miss Moneypenny in the early James Bond films. (Sorry I couldn’t find a clearer photo.)
I’m not sure Corridor of Mirrors is a film I’d want to own, but I’d certainly want to see it again. Right now it appears that the only way to see it is at a film festival or through the Cohen Film Collection DVD (which seems to be a Region 2 British release).
Photos: Movie Morlocks, Cohen Film Collection, MovieMail, Night Flight, Movie Buffs Forever