The Dark Mirror (1946) Robert Siodmak
Olive Blu-ray (1:25)
Watching The Dark Mirror in 1946 was undoubtedly a fascinating experience. First of all you had Olivia de Havilland performing wonderfully as twin sisters, a Nunnally Johnson screenplay, cinematographer Milton R. Krasner, music by Dimitri Tiomkin and, of course, Robert Siodmak directing. Over 70 years later, the film’s impact is far less than it was in 1946, but this has less to do with the people who made the film than our understanding of psychology.
As the film opens, we find Dr. Frank Peralta stabbed to death in his apartment. The investigating detective Lieutenant Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) discovers that several witnesses saw Peralta’s lover Terry Collins (de Havilland) nearby at the time of the murder. After tracking down Terry, Stevenson discovers that she lives with her twin sister Ruth (also de Havilland) and that the two are literally identical. Who could say that it was Terry they witnessed at Peralta’s apartment and not Ruth? When the sisters refuse to reveal who’s who and cooperate, Stevenson’s investigation is at a standstill.
Dr. Scott Elliott (Lew Ayres) is called in to conduct psychological tests of the sisters, but he can’t even tell which is which. Or can he? The entire examination of psychiatry and twins seems very pedantic in 2017, but that probably wasn’t the case in 1946 when most of the ideas and concepts of these subjects were no doubt newer and less well-known. We’re so familiar with them now that their treatment here seems almost ancient. Yet the Nunnally Johnson script dwells on melodrama just as much as it does the psychological and mystery aspects, often muddying the waters.
Although so much in the film is dated, it’s still an entertaining venture, especially the performance(s) of de Havilland. (Plus it’s fun trying to figure out how they pulled off the twin trick with 1946 technology.)
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Photos: The Telltale Mind, RareFilm, Une Cinéphile