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A sleuthing secretary descends into the sinister nightclubs and shadowy streets of the New York underworld to exonerate her boss of a murder charge, in this definitive film noir from the great Robert Siodmak.
The great Robert Siodmak deserves a full-scale retrospective; we hope to show such classics as The Spiral Staircase and The Killers in future seasons. "A template for studio-made hardcore noir" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice) and one of Siodmak's most atmospheric and unnerving films, Phantom Lady does swell by its source, a Cornel Woolrich novel. The plot is implausible, but who cares when a film is this much fun? A sleuthing secretary nicknamed Kansas (Ella Raines) navigates New York's sinister nightclubs and sweltering streets, thick with shadow, to track down the disappeared dame of the title, the only person who can prove that Raines' jailed boss did not commit murder. Woody Bredell's brilliant cinematography, all insinuating angles and moody silhouettes, reaches its expressionistic climax in a jazz club, where a madly grinning Elisha Cook, Jr. beats his drum to wild-eyed orgasm while booze-swilling, gum-smacking Raines brazenly shakes her chiffon. "As much as any other film, defines the studio noir" (Robert Porfirio).