DECOY. Monogram, 1946. (Miss) Jean Gillie, Edward Norris, Robert Armstrong, Herbert Rudley, Sheldon Leonard, Marjorie Woodworth, William Self. Screenplay by Ned Young, based on a story by Stanley Rubin, adapted from a radio play broadcast as an episode of The Whistler. Director: Jack Bernhard.

   This rather bizarre excursion into sci-fi noir is, according to some critics, the best movie that Monogram ever made. I wouldn’t go that far, but it has its moments. Based on an actual fact, though, stretched to its limit and quite a way beyond, it has to do with reviving a hardened criminal after being successfully put to death in the state of California’s notorious gas chamber. (There is a drug that is an antidote to cyanide poisoning, but no, it doesn’t work once the victim is already dead.)

   That’s the extent of the sci-fi content, and again no, that’s not why this movie has become to many a cult classic. Unavailable for many years, except as a scattering of film conventions, the real reason this movie has so many fans is its starring lady, British-born Jean Gillie, whose American debut this was. As far as femme fatales in noir film go, she is the fatalest. There is $400,000 of stolen money at stake, and she is absolutely determined to get her hands on it, no matter how many men she has to seduce and betray along the way.

   For a film made in 1946, there is a lot of violence in this film, but thinking back, most of it is not shown on camera. You may think so as you’re watching, but not so. Even so, when Monogram released the movie to TV, one scene of Margot Shelby (Gillie’s character) backing up and driving over her erstwhile boyfriend two or three times was cut so that it happens only once. Or so I’m told. This latter version is the one, alas, that’s now available on DVD, perhaps the only one in existence.

   The acting is mostly fine, the sets are solid and often extremely effective (such as the opening scene as the doctor who had previously succumbed to Gillie’s character’s charms looks in a mirror at his battered and disheveled self in a ratty gas station restroom). And the final scene, one in which Margot stays true to herself to the end, is one you will long remember.

   Trouble is, Margot is such a one-dimensional character you have to do a science-fictional “suspension of disbelief” to swallow the fact that such an amoral person could exist. Given that, as well as the cornerstone sfnal concept at the core of the film, and I think you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did.