."…female detective—isn't that what you've been testing me for?"
Lured is one of seven films that Douglas Sirk directed in America before 1950. Although born in Denmark, most of Sirk's early career was in Germany, in the theater. It wasn't until 1935 that he directed his first film. With the rise of Nazism, he left Germany soon thereafter, eventually making his way to Hollywood. After some work as a contract writer for Columbia, Sirk directed his first American film in 1943, for MGM—Hitler's Madman. Over the next six years, Sirk would direct a variety of films, mainly melodramas for independent producers releasing through United Artists. Lured (1947) was one of this group.
Previously not available on home video, Lured has recently been released by Kino-on-Video on DVD in a bare-bones edition.
Lured takes place in London and centers on the fortunes of Sandra Carpenter (played by Lucille Ball) a young American dancer who had come from New York to appear in a stage musical which then folded after 4 performances. Now making a living as a dance hostess in a somewhat questionable establishment, she becomes involved with Scotland Yard when one of her friends becomes the latest in a series of disappearances of attractive young women. The disappearances seem to be related to ads appearing in the personal column of the newspaper. Sandra agrees to act as bait for the police in order to trap those responsible for the disappearances, by responding to ads that seem to offer potential. This leads to several meetings some of which prove to be red herrings but others which seem to tie her more and more closely to nightclub owner Robert Fleming (George Sanders) and his partner Julian Wilde (Sir Cedric Hardwicke)—both of whom play vital roles in the resolution of the mysterious disappearances.
The somewhat contrived nature of the plot and the set-bound nature of the action give Lured a very strong feeling of a typical B film of the time. At 103 minutes, it was obviously not conceived as a B, however, and several things raise it somewhat above that level.
There is an unusual blend of glossiness and noir look to Lured, the former of which presages the polished melodramas of the 1950s for which Sirk would become famous (such as Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows [both for Universal]) while the latter harks back to his background in the German expressionism movement of the '20s and '30s. Some will find this blend fascinating; others will feel that the director just wasn't sure what he wanted Lured to be—a stylish thriller or a true film noir.
The cast is of a high caliber and delivers a number of efficient performances. Lucille Ball is most impressive as the "bait," very natural and engaging throughout. Although known mainly for musicals and comedies, she had done well with several opportunities for serious roles in Five Came Back (1939, RKO), The Big Street (1942, RKO), and The Dark Corner (1946, Fox), so her good work in a film like Lured was not entirely unexpected. The ever-reliable Charles Coburn plays the Scotland Yard inspector in charge of the case convincingly and a roster of well-known British character actors including Alan Napier, Robert Coote and George Zucco very ably abets him. George Sanders plays what for him is a standard combination of cad but ultimately good guy with a reasonable suggestion of interest in the role. Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Alan Mowbray both give delicious portrayals of rather suspect characters. Boris Karloff has a small role in one of the "red herring" meetings—which he plays in a somewhat over-the-top fashion.
Kino-on-Video's presentation of Lured is of quite good quality on the image side of things. The DVD is 1.37:1 in accordance with the original aspect ratio and is mastered from what appears to be a rather good print. There is some speckling, but the image is bright and clear with good contrast. Blacks and whites are true with quite good shadow detail. The sound is acceptable for an unrestored film of this age. There is some hiss from time to time, and dialogue is briefly lost at a couple of splices.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Once again with a Kino DVD, I have to report on disappointing supplemental material. Correction, make that no supplemental material whatsoever—no trailer, not even a few production notes on a printed insert. There are 16 scene selections, but scene selection is a standard item on any DVD. With all the material available on Lucille Ball and on Douglas Sirk, it shouldn't be asking too much to include some cast and crew information and some related trailers. At $29.99 list on their DVDs, Kino should be doing more for consumers on all their releases.
I also have to question Kino's choice of DVD cover art. Shown are images of Lucille Ball and Boris Karloff as their characters in the film, clearly implying that Karloff has a major role. This will be completely misleading to a Karloff fan looking to Lured as a typical Karloff vehicle. His appearance in Lured is restricted to a short self-contained sequence which could be easily removed from the film without affecting the storyline in any significant way
If you like B mysteries done with an interesting style, Lured should appeal to you. It provides an entertaining vehicle in which to see director Douglas Sirk in action, prior to the period for which he is best remembered. It also shows off the acting range that Lucille Ball was capable of, giving her a good opportunity outside the musical and comedy genres for which she was known. Lured also shows off a number of the British contingent from Hollywood's extremely rich stock of character actors of the time.
If you appreciate a black and white presentation that you can watch without distraction, even though it's not pristine, Lured should not disappoint you. But if you're looking for even a modest enhancement of your enjoyment of the film by way of some additional information on the making-of aspects or cast, you'll be very unhappy.
Lured, the film, is acquitted of all charges, but Lured, the DVD, is sentenced to rental only. Accomplice Kino is urged to keep seeking out and making available these types of items previously not on video, but is censured for its lack of attention to supplemental detail.
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