Rudy Schwartz's Reviews




This is a peculiar and ultimately laughable piece of mildly entertaining dreck directed by Anthony Mann, whose output ran the quality gamut from the nail scrapingly bad Glenn Miller Story to the solid and memorable gonad stomper The Naked Spur. Strange Impersonation lands somewhere in between, much more watchable than the former, but consistently dumb, unlike the latter. A misleadingly high billing for Lyle Talbot on the DVD case is what pulled me in, but his contribution is unfortunately brief. I'm mildly surprised that there must be other Lyle Talbot fans out there, since I would have estimated our numbers to be slightly fewer than those who claim to be Floyd Cramer groupies. I'm guessing this is due more to his appearance in Ed Wood films than his supposedly more legitimate work, but personally I've always been partial to his portrayal of an evil pornographer in a 60s Dragnet episode.

Brenda Marshall stars as a bespectacled blonde babe scientist working on a revolutionary anesthetic, after which she has promised to marry her fiancÚ (William Gargan). Another archetypal 40s blonde, Hillary Brooke, works in the same lab and, unbeknownst to Marshall, is also hot for William Gargan. This central plot premise is sneer worthy, since William Gargan has the looks and sexual charisma of a castrato Howard Sprague immersed in a month long Star Wars fan convention. In the opening lab scene, he sends Hillary Brooke down to the library to fetch a book on osmosis so he can grab some quick nookie from Brenda Marshall. After he slides his tongue into her mouth, she pulls back and admonishes him:

Steven! Remember! Science!

Well, why did I fall in love with a chemist and a smock?

Later, at her apartment, they peg the erection meter with this steamy exchange:

To begin with, I like your hair.

It's a woman's crowning glory. Did you know that hair grows at the rate of one fiftieth of an inch a day?

Amazing! (they kiss) You have wonderful eyes.

The eyes are a very interesting mechanism.

Oh, really?

The outermost coat of the eyes is sclerotic, a strong, white, fibrous structure, covering about four-fifths of the eyeball. And eyes are practically indispensible for seeing. They can also be winked.

Your nose is out of this world. (winking)

Now in mammals, the nose varies in size and shape. Take elephants. The nose is likely to be...

...as long as an elephant's nose.

Oh, Steven!

Ha ha ha. Leave the science in the laboratory. Ha ha ha.

Normally you'd have to find an 8mm stag reel at a garage sale to witness conversational foreplay of this caliber, but fortunately in this case it ends without any genitals being exposed, since Marshall needs to get rid of her beefcake boyfriend and experiment with her ground breaking anesthetic. Hillary Brooke shows up to help, but sabotages things by torching Marshall's face with a chemical reaction while she is sedated, rendering her undesirable and leaving Brooke with a clear path to Gargan's turgid phallus.

Eventually Marshall has her face fixed by a plastic surgeon, who miraculously makes her look exactly like another woman seen earlier in the film, who I won't get into for fear of giving away too much. But instead of having the other woman take over the role, they just stick a black wig on Brenda Marshall, and for the rest of the film nobody recognizes her, even though it's obviously her with a wig.

And then there's the dreadfully stupid "trick" ending that delivers the emotional punch of a protracted seventy minute squat on a whoopie cushion. Lyle Talbot also livens things up a bit toward the end as a dim witted and belligerent police inspector.

It's worth a look if you enjoy film noir with no brains, questionable casting, and awful writing. But you'd be much better off renting The Naked Spur.

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