Happy #Noirvember! TMP is celebrating the genre this month with a noir review every Sunday. Today’s film is a tense noir with a scientific twist. Previously in this series: When Strangers Marry (1944)
Dr. Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) has been shot… but he won’t leave this world without a fight. He uses the last of his strength to trek to the apartment of Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie), shooting her before dying himself.
Joe Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) is on the case, hoping to get the details of how this all happened from Margot, before she also succumbs to her gunshot wounds. She tells him a twisted tale involving her boyfriend Frankie (Robert Armstrong), a bank robbery, a gangster (Edward Norris), and a crazy plot to bring a man sent to death back from the grave.
Decoy was directed by Jack Bernhard. The screenplay was written by Ned Young from an original story by Stanley Rubin.
Decoy has high tension from the very start. It’s one of those films that starts with the end and then launches into flashback, but knowing the outcome doesn’t zap any of the story’s impact.
The subplot with an execution “cure” adds an interesting element to the story — not something I’ve seen before in a crime film. Usually attempts to revive the dead are reserved for the zombified corners of the horror genre. Used effectively here, it adds a bit of a “mad scientist” twist to the usual noir drama.
Gillie and her sinister character of Margot are the key reason to tune in, however. Some of the other performances are shaky, but Gillie is wonderfully wicked — one of the most wicked gals I’ve seen on screen lately (or, perhaps, ever). She doesn’t just go around killing people left and right, but she’s completely driven by the dough and not willing to let anyone get in her way. She’ll seduce you, then shoot you, and laugh at you while she does it!
While the film has a few duller moments here and there, Margot’s mad journey keeps the viewer engaged throughout much of the film, bringing plenty scenes of strong tension and leading up to a truly wild finale. Decoy is a great B-noir, one of those low-budget wonders that manages to impress, and it’s well worth watching for its memorable femme fatale alone.