Impact (1949) Directed by Arthur Lubin Impact stars Brian Donlevy as Walter Williams a wealthy San Fransisco businessman who thinks his wife Irene played by Helen Walker ( great as the dark dominating force Lilith in Nightmare Alley) is truly the adoring woman she pretends to be. Here’s a great article from Movie Morlocks about the unsung talent of sexy Helen Walker.
Irene Gives her husband monogrammed shirts with his initials and calls him softy. She so adept at delivering the saccharine flattery of a doting wife. Unknown to the misguided Walter, she’s done the same monogram initials bit for her lover Tony Barrett as Jim Torrence a ruthless opportunist who has no hesitation in harming Walter to get what he wants.
Jim utters the iconic words from the film that reverberates in Walter’s head once he awakens from the nightmare, “This is for me and Irene sucker” just before he smashes the tire iron down upon Walter’s head.
Before the married couple are supposed to leave on a trip, Irene sets Walter up by feigning illness therefore not feeling well enough to travel with him. Instead, she sends her lover who is pretending to be her cousin Jim Torrence to meet up with Walter so he can give Jim a lift. Jim plans on bumping Walter off along the roadside and meeting up with Irene later at a Hotel under assumed names.
In a moment of sheer fatalistic retribution while speeding away from the crime scene Jim Torrance dies in a horrible head-on collision with a truck, which burns his body beyond recognition. After hitting Walter on the head with a tire iron he viciously throws him down the side of a cliff and leaves him for dead.
But Walter awakens bloodied and dazed climbs onto the back of a Bekins truck and winds up in Larkspur Idaho where he takes a job as a mechanic working for a war widow, the exquisite Ella Raines as Marsha Peters. Ella is even sylph-like in her greasy mechanic’s jumpsuit and cap.
Walter is hired at the gas station using a fake name, and while Marsha is beloved in the community she is not a very good mechanic so Walter takes over for three months, living as a roomer at Marsha’s kindly mother’s home. Walter becomes part of the community, as a volunteer fireman, and starts to relish leaving the big city life behind and the double-crossing wife Irene for this quaint existence in Larkspur.
Walter is assumed to be dead, which is all over the newsprint and later his wife Irene is sent to jail accused of plotting his murder, being hounded by Lt.Quincy played by Charles Coburn.
Walter reads the news, anticipating his revenge now with Irene sentenced to death, and he and Marsha begin to develop feelings for each other. When Walter tells the truth to Marsha..she insists that he do the right thing and go back to San Fransisco and show that he’s still alive.
Ironically, the police then believe the yarn that Irene spins that it was Walter who murdered her lover and not the other way around. Now Marsha and Lt Quincy must track down Su Lin, the William’s maid played by Anna May Wong who isn’t sure if her testimony would either help or hurt the kindly Walter Williams.
While Impact has some of the essential elements of a noir film, it works really well as a MeloNoir, the merging of melodrama and noir together. Brian Donlevy gives a great performance as the paragon betrayed patsy by his ruthless wife Irene. Helen Walker is icy as ever and Ellen is just gorgeous sitting on the stoop in Larkspur.
The Narrator starts off the tone of the film by saying Impact, the force with which two lives come together. Sometimes for good, sometimes for evil.
Visit this revised piece that covers Impact in more detail.