Welcome to Mill Creek Musings, a segment in which I work my way through the three low-price Mill Creek film sets that I own, reviewing each film for content and quality along the way. The Man Who Cheated Himself marks my fifth viewing from the 50 Dark Crimes set.
One of the consequences of a messy divorce is that your angry ex-spouse may come back for revenge, and this is exactly what the rich Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt) fears of her ex-husband, Howard (Harland Warde).
Lois finds out that Howard has bought a gun and immediately calls her lover, who happens to be a homicide detective named Ed Cullen (not to be confused with the vampire of the same name; portrayed by Lee J. Cobb).
Ed heads to the home in hopes of calming Lois, but when he arrives, he becomes a witness to Lois killing her husband in what she thinks was self-defense. And when he decides to help dump the body because he loves her, he becomes an accessory to the crime.
Hope is still on the horizon for the murderous pair when Ed himself is assigned to the case. But unfortunately, working with Ed is his younger brother, Andy (John Dall) – a rookie detective who wants nothing more than to solve the crime and make a name for himself, using all of the skills that his successful, veteran detective older brother has taught him.
Felix E. Feist directs 1950’s The Man Who Cheated Himself.
It’s clear right from the beginning of this film that there’s going to be trouble. It opens with a scene of a man fiddling with locks, and we soon find out there’s a gun involved. Things can’t possibly go right when the viewer sees these sinister images from the get-go, and the film certainly delivers that trouble. The big crime happens pretty early on and what follows is a whole lot of tension.
Throughout the entire film, the viewer is just waiting for the truth about the crime to be revealed. Lois is very obviously guilty, and Ed was there when she killed her husband, so he must try to hide it from his colleagues in the homicide department. In essence, the film is nothing more than an anxious waiting game. As a result, there aren’t many big surprises or unexpected moments to keep the viewer hooked.
But despite the lack of enormous game-changing plot points, the suspense alone does a pretty good job of keeping the viewer’s attention. The intrigue picks up even more in the final quarter when it becomes unclear whether Ed is going to turn on Lois or whether he’ll continue to deceive his brother. With his brother’s suspicions growing all the while, the action plays out in a somewhat surprising way and builds up some very good tension.
The film’s best scene is undoubtedly its ending. Jane Wyatt and Lee J. Cobb have no vocal interaction during the scene, but (without giving too much away) the strong expressions that they send each other say everything that the film needs to say.
In terms of the quality of the print, the picture quality is decent. There are no major flaws to it, but of course it isn’t perfect. (After all, this is public domain.) The sound ranges from clear to very crackly, but the dialogue is still understandable.
The Man Who Cheated Himself is a pretty suspenseful crime drama with a fantastic ending that would make the entire thing worth watching even if the rest of it was a total stinker. It’s a great asset to the 50 Dark Crimes set. The score: 3.8/5
(The Man Who Cheated Himself is in the public domain. Watch it for free at the Internet Archive!)