Ella Raines in Impact (dir. Arthur Lubin, 1949)

Wife (Helen Walker) and lover (Tony Barrett) plot to murder successful industrialist husband (Brian Donlevy). Lover hits husband over head with lug wrench, then drives off in husband's car and immediately gets killed by truck. Husband wakes up, stumbles into back of Bekins moving van and ends up in different state. Lover's badly burned body is taken for that of husband. Husband follows story of his own death in the news and takes a job as mechanic working for pretty lady garage owner (Ella Raines) in "Larkspur, Idaho" (actually filmed in Larkspur, California; since Larkspur is in the bay area, where the rest of the story takes place, they had to make it somewhere else, but there are signs all over town that say "Larkspur," so they were stuck with the name).

So far, so good. Lots of situational possibilities. Unfortunately, the wife becomes a suspect and is charged with the "murder" too soon, thus deflating much of the suspense around what will happen when it is revealed that the husband is still alive. By the time the husband makes his way back to San Francisco, it devolves into a creaky courtroom drama, in which the tables are turned and the husband is charged with the lover's murder, and everything needs to be sorted out with the help of the pretty garage owner, a kindly old Irish police lieutenant (Charles Coburn), and a Chinese maid (Anna May Wong). Oh, and along the way, the postwar domestic imbalance whereby women are forced by necessity to do men's work undergoes modest but gallant correction. Indeed. But you know what? It's a 1940s crime drama, in nice crisp black and white (Ernst Laszlo behind the camera), with great looking cars and furniture, and will therefore do just fine, thank you.

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