DESTINY. Universal, 1944. Gloria Jean, Alan Curtis, Frank Craven, Frank Fenton, and Minna Gomebell, who doesn’t have a big part — I just like writing “Minna Gombell.” Written by Ernest Pascal and Roy Chanslor. Directed by Julien Duvivier and Reginald Le Borg.

   A true oddity of a B-movie with an oft-told back story which I will try to summarize briefly:

   In 1943, Julien Duvivier made Flesh and Fantasy, an all-star three-story portmanteau for Universal Studios, with Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Boyer, Edward. G. Robinson, Bob Cummings and Betty Field. There was originally supposed to be a fourth part with John Garfield and Gloria Jean, but Garfield balked at being loaned out to Universal and was replaced by contract player Alan Curtis. Then, when the movie was judged to be too long, this part was cut out altogether.

   With the wisdom and penury of their breed, the studio heads at Universal decided to salvage the footage and build a new movie around it. Roy William Neill was assigned to produce, with Reginald Le Borg (of The Mummy’s Ghost and Sins of JezebeL infamy) directing, and Roy Chanslor (Johnny Guitar) tasked with creating a story to fit the stuff already filmed.

   Well they did it, and it ain’t awful. In fact, considering the strictures of the project, it turned out surprisingly well. Some might even give it that overworked accolade “noir.” But before I get to that, there’s another thread to the story:

   “Destiny” was an all-purpose title the execs at Universal slapped on any work in progress while they searched for a more marketable moniker. At various times, The Wolf Man, Son of Dracula, and Ma & Pa Kettle in the Ozarks were all temporarily titled Destiny, and I suspect in this case they just didn’t bother to change it.

   Okay, moving on to the story itself, it starts with our hero (Alan Curtis)on the run from the Law, then flashes back to how he got drawn into a robbery, duped by a night club chantoosie and slammed into prison for three years …. only to get innocently involved in another robbery after his release. Which would all be very noir indeed, if done by anybody but Le Borg, who films it in his usual fast and anonymous style.

   Anyway, Curtis eventually wanders into a rural community called Paradise Valley, where the Duvivier footage comes in as he meets one of those blind girls unique to the movies (Gloria Jean) who lives with her aging father (Frank Craven) and has a strange affinity with nature: wild animals flock to her side and even the flowers seem to nod as she passes.

   All this should be way too cutesy, but Duvivier manages not to wallow in it by focusing on Curtis, whose character has changed markedly from the Le Borg footage. We’re supposed to think he’s been embittered by his experiences, but actually he seems something of a rotter, hoping to force his company on poor Gloria, even if it means killing her dad.

   Which leads us into the high point of the film, and one of the best few minutes of a great director: a tour de force sequence of Curtis chasing Gloria Jean through a storm-lashed forest. As they run, branches, vines and underbrush magically part to let her through, then snap back to pummel and ensnare the pursuer … and it’s convincing! A real nightmare scenario, with fluid camera, striking compositions and everything else that makes movies memorable.

   There’s more to Destiny after this, but why go into it? I’d only have to use words like facile, clichéd, contrived and crap and I hate to apply terms like that to a film that like I say, ain’t all that bad. And if you can take it for what it is, you can enjoy this Destiny.