MANHANDLED. Paramount Pictures, 1949. Dorothy Lamour, Sterling Hayden, Dan Duryea, Irene Hervey, Phillip Reed, Harold Vermilyea, Alan Napier, Art Smith, Irving Bacon. Screenplay by Lewis R. Foster & Whitman Chambers, based on the story “The Man Who Stole a Dream,” by L. S. Goldsmith. Director: Lewis R. Foster.

   There are some positive aspects to this film, including an absolutely bravura performance by Dan Duryea, but sad to say, there aren’t enough of them for me to give you more than a very tepid recommendation that you see it, if you haven’t done so already. And that’s especially true if, attracted by either the title or the names of those in the cast, you’re expecting a solidly built film noir.

   And a solidly built film noir is not what this is. Maybe the first ten minutes, in which we see a husband, obviously impatiently waiting for his wife to come home with her current boy friend or so he assumes, followed by an argument which culminated with in crashing a perfume bottle down on her head, killing her instantly.

   It’s a chilling scene that’s beautifully photographed. It’s too bad, then, that it was all a dream, as the husband is next seen telling his psychiatrist all about it. The dream, that is. The doctor tries o alleviate the husband’s fears, but he also seems inordinately interested the wife’s jewelry, which are said to be worth something $100,000.

   Which is a lot of money, then or now, and when the wife is subsequently found murdered, in identical fashion to the husband’s dream, of course the jewelry is missing. At which point the film shifts into its real reason for existing: a fairly ordinary murder mystery. Did the husband really do it, or if not, who else knew about the dream and jewelry? The doctor, of course, or perhaps the PI (Dan Duryea) who lives in the apartment immediately below the doctor’s secretary (Dorothy Lamour).

   I have not yet mentioned Sterling Hayden, who plays the insurance investigator assigned to the case, and whose eye is quick to notice that the secretary is an extremely attractive woman. You’d also think he’d be more involved with solving the case as well, but in spite of many opportunity to do so, the story goes off in another direction altogether.

   No, it’s Dan Duryea’s performance that carries the story, no doubt about it. He always played smooth but ultimately sleazy operators to the hilt, but in Manhandled he turns his trademarked unctuousness up a notch, or maybe three. A greater cad in all regards, you cannot imagine.

   The movie does get a little rougher — especially in the final fifteen minutes — but after the one additional twist I thought was coming never materialized, I was so non-interested as not to care. This one could have been a lot better than it actually turned out.

PS. The orecurring attempts to add some humor, especially the police car with no brakes, were truly lame, indeed.