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Remind Me

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Before she converted herself into "Lucy," the most beloved comic actress in TV history, Lucille Ball put in several years as a Hollywood chorus girl-starlet. Never one to ignite the screen in conventional roles, she delivered a string of benign performances in films that generally ranged in quality from passable to bad. Though the cover of Kino Video's DVD release of Ball's 1947 vehicle, Lured, describes the picture as "Douglas Sirk's Rediscovered Thriller," it really doesn't come close to the director's best work. But, given the success he had directing such later melodramas as Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life, it's definitely worth a look for the curious.

Lured's shadowy settings can't camouflage a contrived, strangely episodic script, and Ball, as was sometimes the case with her movie work, is too brassy for her own good. She plays Sandra Carpenter, a displaced American actress who's trying to eek out a living as a dance hostess in London. A nicely executed opening sequence explains that someone has been placing personal ads in the newspaper, then killing the women who answer them. When one of her dancer friends disappears, Sandra agrees - quite unbelievably - to become bait for the killer. Charles Coburn - quite unbelievably again - plays a Scotland yard detective who has his men tail her while she goes on a series of dates that might turn into murder.

This is more tense than wondering whether Lucy and Ethel can handle a conveyor belt full of chocolate candies, but not by much. Aside from a witty turn by George Sanders, who seems to think he's playing Noel Coward, the lead performances are perfunctory at best. Perhaps the most interesting interlude is a bizarre hook-up between Lucy and a deranged dress designer embodied by Boris Karloff. It does absolutely nothing to advance the plot, although it's fun to watch Karloff glower menacingly on a cobweb-laden set. Don't be fooled, though. The sequence only lasts a few minutes, but Kino prominently displays Karloff's face on the box.

Lured is presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and the print is quite sharp, with distinct separation of the blacks and grays. You never get lost in the shadows, and, as already mentioned, Sirk was big on shadows at this point. The usual specks and scratches appear at times (this isn't one of those minutely restored masterpieces), but the overall image is much better than expected. The sound is also acceptable for a 56 year-old film. That better be enough to keep you happy, though, since Kino doesn't include any extras, not even a movie historian's essay or a beat-up trailer.

For more information about Lured, visit Kino International. To order Lured, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Tatara