“Impact: The force with which two lives come together… sometimes for good, sometimes for evil.” With this fabricated dictionary definition, 1949’s Impact begins.
The film follows Walter “Walt” Williams (Brian Donlevy), a successful California businessman who has just purchased three new Denver factories for his company and must travel to Colorado.
Walt would like his wife, Irene (Helen Walker), to travel with him, but she says she isn’t feeling well enough to handle a road trip. Instead, she asks Walt if he’ll let her cousin, Jim (Tony Barrett), hitch a ride to Colorado on the way to Illinois.
But Jim is not Irene’s cousin at all: he’s the man that she’s been cheating on Walt with. And the lovers have cooked up a plan to get Walt out of the picture for good, orchestrating an “accidental” death on the road.
The plan goes awry, and Jim ends up dead instead of Walt, but everyone believes Walt is dead because his car was involved in the accident.
Walt takes the opportunity to start over in a new town, with a new name. He gets a new job, makes a new lady-friend named Marsha (Ella Raines). But will his cover be blown?
Arthur Lubin (Mr. Ed, Phantom of the Opera) directs Impact, which appears in Mill Creek’s 50 Mystery Classics set — in spectacularly good quality for a public domain film. The picture has more clarity than just about any other film I’ve seen from a Mill Creek set. It’s also much longer than a typical Mill Creek-released film, running just ten minutes short of two hours. The screenplay for this film was written by Dorothy Davenport and Jay Dratler (Laura, Call Northside 777).
I was immediately attracted to the premise of this film, which promises plenty of tension and drama, between the murder plot and the identity swap.
The story itself isn’t quite as high on tension as I expected it to be, but it is a great story. The message of justice, punishment and fairness is a bit heavy-handed, with the character of Marsha eventually lecturing Walt on whether or not his wife deserves to suffer for plotting his death, and then *SPOILER* Walt facing trial himself over Jim’s death *END SPOILER*.
However, I didn’t have a huge issue with this heavy-handedness, because it allows the viewer to analyze Walt’s mindset and how he has been affected by the situation. He builds a new life for himself with great success, but he can’t escape the past forever. Brian Donleavy’s lead performance is fantastic and draws the viewer into the film so well.
Impact is an interesting film, and a very solid drama. It doesn’t feel overlong or have trouble keeping the viewer’s attention. It isn’t a mystery in the traditional sense, but it makes a great addition to the Mill Creek 50 Mystery Classics set. The score: 4/5