The Dark Mirror

Released Oct. 18, 1946: TheDarkMirrorTHE DARK MIRROR, starring Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, and Thomas Mitchell. Directed by Robert Siodmak (Phantom Lady, Criss Cross, The File on Thelma Jordan). Witnesses implicate de Havilland in the murder of a doctor, but can’t definitively identify her because she has an identical twin sister (also played by de Havilland) with a legitimate alibi. Since the sisters won’t give each other up, the police are unable to hold either of them. A psychologist (Lew Ayres) takes an interest in the case and volunteers to spend time with each sister to determine which of them is capable of murder. Much of the film takes place either at Ayer’s office, where he conducts sessions with the sisters, or at the sisters’ shared apartment, where the murdering sibling gradually tries to undermine the “normal” twin by convincing her she’s going mad. The early part of the film plays out like a jaunty farce from the 1930s, with the hapless police lieutenant (Thomas Mitchell) completely befuddled by the twins. But the film gets progressively darker and more noir-like as the true nature of each sister’s personality is uncovered. Psychoanalysis and Freudian psychology were hot topics in America in the 1940s. The public was both fascinated and frightened by the notion that a person’s true tendencies and motivations could be exposed through psychoanalysis, so it’s not surprising that psychology and psychological manipulation were common themes in films of the era. The Dark Mirror is all about psychology, complete with scenes of ink blot tests, word association quizzes, exploration of childhood memories, and frequent psychological pontificating by Ayres. Although this may sound dry and dull, the film is actually quite watchable, thanks to Siodmack’s quick pacing, de Havilland’s riveting, but not over-played, on-screen presence in the dual role of twins, and the steadily darkening story. We give The Dark Mirror 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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