CRACK-UP. RKO Radio, 1946. Pat O’Brien, Claire Trevor, Herbert Marshall, Ray Collins, Wallace Ford, Mary Ware. Director: Irving Reis. Based on “Madman’s Holiday,” a long novelette by Fredric Brown.

   I’ve not read “Madman’s Holiday,” but I do have the July 1943 issue of Detective Story Magazine, where it first appeared. Later on it was paired with “The Song of the Dead” in the Dennis McMillan hardcover collection of the same title, Madman’s Holiday (1985).

   As a director, Irving Reis is best known in some circles (such as this one) for several of the early Falcon movies, but in terms of a well-paced and well-told black-and-white thriller, he seems to have lost his touch with this film, his first after the war, following Hitler’s Children in 1943.

   Pat O’Brien plays George Steele, a museum spokesman about to be fired for daring to bring fine art down to the level of ordinary people, much to the dismay of museum’s board of directors. That doesn’t seem to be offense enough for him to fall into the malicious plot that follows, in which a train wreck that he was in apparently (he is told) never happened.

   Only his girl friend Terry Cordell (Claire Trevor, and even more beautiful and blonde than ever) believes his story after Steele, suffering from either the aftereffects of the accident or a wartime psychosis, smashes his way into the museum at night, assaulting a policeman in the process.

Crack-Up: OBrien - Trevor

   A very noirish, nightmarish opening that promises a fine tale in the offing, but alas! the fine tale never materializes. Steele is also an expert in art forgery, and what the tale boils down to is simply that, a gang of deadly art forgers whose dastardly doings are neither (double alas!) very interesting nor wholly explained. Everybody speaks in a calm, soft-spoken and unexcited manner, including the mysterious Traybin, played by the never flappable Herbert Marshall, and his non-exertion is contagious.

   Rather than a noir film, and regarded highly as such in some quarters, as I’ve discovered, I was reminded more often of those old spooky house pictures made in the 1930s, with much standing around (when it comes down to it) and little of consequence on the screen.

   A hodge-podge of this and that, in other words, and in two words, very disappointing. [You may follow the link in the paragraph above, however, for a diametrically opposed opinion.]