The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Dec 26, 1950 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Despite one dreadful piece of miscasting, The Man Who Cheated Himself emerges as an interesting and entertaining film noir, a "second tier" noir that deserves to be better known. (The title doesn't really fit the story to a T, but it's a great title nonetheless.) Felix E. Feist directs with all the requisite tension and atmosphere, pulling the viewer in and leading him along in a perfect, acceptable manipulative fashion. Feist's direction lacks some of the great flourishes of the masters of the genre, but it's more than competent and gets no complaints from this corner. Lee J. Cobb gives a very solid performance in the lead, as Lt. Ed Cullen, capturing the conflicting aspects of the character and making him sympathetic, even as he treads down the path of murder. John Dall does well as Cobb's younger brother, Andy, who makes the shocking realization that Cobb is his prey and that he must capture him, no matter what, and Lisa Howard and Alan Wells turn in fine support as Janet and Nito. The crucial piece of miscasting is in Jane Wyatt, cast very much against type as the story's femme fatale and failing miserably to carry it off. It's an annoying, mannered performance, and her lack of believability damages the core of the film, as one cannot imagine Cobb risking everything for her. Wyatt's performance gives an unintended meaning to the title -- that Cobb's character cheated himself by falling for someone so unappealing.