She's no good, but she's good for me!
The Man Who Cheated Himself is directed by Felix E. Feist and written by Seton I. Miller and Phillip MacDonald. It stars Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, John Dall and Lisa Howard. Music is by Louis Forbes and cinematography by Russell Harlan.
Ed Cullen (Cobb) is a cop who is having an affair with wealthy Lois Frazer (Wyatt). When Lois, in a fit of panic shoots dead her husband, it cause Cullen no end of grief. You see, he was there as well, a witness to the crime...
Don't forget to change your will.
This is a film noir entry that contains most of the elements that form that brand of film making. Something of an under seen - and undervalued - piece, it manages to rise above a few minor itches to play out as potent. Cullen (Cobb excellent) gets spun into a vortex of self inflicted trouble on account of his eye for a dame, essayed by a cast against type Wyatt. Both are unfaithful, she's unreliable and he's quick to break his own laws with dishonesty and a corruptible soul.
Things spice up when Cullen's younger brother, Andy (Dall), himself a police officer, joins his brother in investigating the "now" mysterious murder case. So we have a family crisis brewing as the younger Cullen tries to crack the case, all while his elder brother tries to throw him off the scent of his own complicity. Wonderful, because like a few other great noirs (Scandal Sheet, The Big Clock et al) we have a protagonist effectively investigating himself. And with the brothers being polar opposites in life values, it keeps things simmering nicely in the intrigue pot.
The dialogue is often clippy and the police procedural aspects are finely played with believable strokes. Close calls come and go as the detective work lurches from almost solved and closed to "hang on a minute something smells fishy here" , while tricky collusion's smile like a Cheshire cat. The great Russell Harlan (Gun Crazy/Riot In Cell Block 11) continually keeps things moody with shadows and low lights, whilst simultaneously bringing to life the splendid San Francisco locations. None more so than for the finale filmed out at a derelict and decrepit Fort Point, a perfect setting for noir if ever there was one (Hitchcock and Boorman thought so too!).
Wyatt is just about convincing enough as a femme fatale, but you can't help but ponder what one of the true noir actresses could have done with the role. While you can't get away from the fact that really both Cullen and Frazer simply had to front up for a self defence case at the beginning and there would have been no hassle. But as weak as that aspect is, there wouldn't have been this noir tale to tell, all of which is helmed with careful and knowing hands by Feist (Tomorrow is Another Day). 7.5/10