Impact (1949)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 20, 1949 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Impact is a well-told crime drama distinguished by good performances from a veteran cast. Even when playing romantic leads or all-around heroes, Brian Donlevy brought a terse gruffness to his work that added a valuable level of realism. Here he strikes a nice internal-conflict balance as the husband wronged. Rejecting revenge as motivation, Donlevy's character is more interested in rebuilding his own life. Where film noir is often concerned with fatalism and justice in the more karmic sense, "happy ending" crime stories like Impact offer the comfortable reassurance that the organizational structures of society will somehow find a way to set free the innocent and punish the guilty. The film has many parallels to Busby Berkeley's They Made Me a Criminal made ten years earlier in 1939. Both protagonists are wronged by those closest to them. Both are involved in accidents and presumed dead. Both face criminal charges if they are discovered. Both find the love of a good woman. Both are pursued by a principled investigator. Only at the endings do the stories substantially diverge, and even there, both stories give the audience an upbeat finish. The black-and-white cinematography in Impact is undermined by frequent use of daytime exterior shots. Ernest Laszlo was a fine technical cinematographer whose visual style varied depending on what director he was working with. The director here is Arthur Lubin, an efficient craftsman not noted for much in the way of style. Lubin hit success that same year with Francis, a comedy about a talking mule. For much of the remainder of his career, Lubin stayed busy with the Francis sequels and other lightweight animal-oriented projects. While Impact misses out on story originality and cinematic atmosphere, it finds strength in its supporting performances. The much-underrated Ella Raines keeps the film's sometimes sluggish second half moving forward. Charles Coburn, as the investigator, plays pretty much the same character that he did in many of his films. He's good enough that the act doesn't go stale. The best treat is the all-too-brief performance of silent movie favorite Anna May Wong. She's excellent in what few scenes she has. Regrettably, her motion picture career had effectively ended some years earlier and she would appear in only two more films before dying in 1961. Overall, Impact lacks the sustaining energy to attain great classic status, but does its work adequately enough maintain interest and elevate it above many crime dramas of the late '40s.