When Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles) meets Elsa (Rita Hayworh) the two fall for each other, and Michael begins working for her rich Attorney husband, Arthur (Everett Sloane). Later, Michael is framed for a murder he didn't commit, and while Arthur prepares a defence, the real killer is a lot nearer than expected.
Technically the film is very strong, with some wonderful background settings for the plottings of murder - isolated on a yacht or a beach; a beautifully designed location for Michael to hide after fleeing from court - a theatre in China Town with stunningly designed sets and costumes; and an intricately designed and choreographed climactic shoot out in a Hall of Mirrors, which makes great use of reflection and a sense of unknowing is really built by the fact one can't tell which Elsa or which Arthur is the real one, and the suspense of it is also built by a strong score by Heinz Roemheld.
In terms of the narrative, however, the film is rather patchy through out. Welles is quite charming as O'Hara in a rougish charm, and writes the character to be quite philosophical, as well as successfully creating a strong Irish accent for the character; while Elsa is written to be quite a seductive, free spirit type woman, who hates being tied down to a husband. In contrast to this, however, Arthur is written to be quite unbelievably sleazy, and although his being a bit of a sleaze could be accepted, he is just too much so one for a character who is also meant to be a refined and incredibly successful Attorney. As for his Law partner, George (Glenn Anders), whom ultimately sets up the whole theme of murder, we have a very poorly written character offered to us, one whom we can't take seriously as he is not only sleazy and foolish, but his manipulative side is written to be like a less funny version of the Joker from Batman, and whom can't keep his face still or serious, in what results in being an altogether irritating character and performance.
Although, sly and charming in places the screenplay does also manage to raise the odd chuckle with its gags, particularly in Michael's trial which uses some excellent word play to make it a comically verbal trial for sure. The other problem, however, is attempts to be comical within the screenplay, which simply do not work. Probably the best example of this is when Michael fights two court guards in the Judge's (Erskine Sanford) office, which results in all manner of things being broken or thrown, a bookcase getting pushed over, and ridiculously exaggerated punches being thrown, in what is clearly an attempt at a farcical fight, but which just ends up looking too exaggerated and well rehearsed. However, this is more than made up for by the terrific, suspenseful climax in the Hall of Mirrors.
Altogether this is an enjoyable piece of film making that has two solid leads in the forms of Welles and Hayworth, and even if the film does fall flat in places, the climax rounds off the film with a bang.
Stars: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Ted de Corsia, Erskine Sanford, Gus Schilling, Carl Frank, Louis Merrill, Evelyn Ellis, Harry Shannon.