A Russian Doll Movie
As Nancy (Laraine Day) and her fiancée John Willis (Gene Raymond) hold a party to introduce her to his family and friends John receives a visitor who needs to speak to him in private. The man is Dr. Harry Blair (Brian Aherne) who claims to be Nancy's former husband something which he knows Nancy won't have told John. Warning John that the woman he is about to marry is dangerous he tells him their story of how they met but also the story of Nancy's previous lover, artist Norman Clyde (Robert Mitchum), who discovered Nancy was a thief and a liar involved with a murder. When Clyde told Blair about Nancy he refused to believer her much to his detriment and now he feels obliged to warn John. The question is, is Harry telling the truth or is he just an obsessed former lover.
"The Locket" is like a Russian doll, it starts of with John and Nancy celebrating together with their friends and family but then we remove the first layer and we have another story with Dr. Blair who seems so controlled when he confronts John that you wonder whether he is an ex husband or just an obsessed lover who has rehearsed this moment so much that in his mind what he is saying is the truth.
But the story doesn't stop there because what John does is tell the story of before him and how Nancy was involved with artist Clyde and it is he who discovers that Nancy is a liar and a thief and who tried to warn Blair. The thing is that this is just another layer and we are transported further back to Nancy's childhood which sets about explaining her behaviour with a woman who treated her badly. But of course whilst we are hearing all this we can't but wonder how much truth there is to this and who in this Russian Doll like story is telling the truth. It is cleverly constructed and keeps you on your toes when after revelations we get twists.
Now there is also a certain aspect of style and director John Brahm uses shadow in almost every single scene be it the shadow from a window frame stretching across a room to frequently obscuring the character's faces as they speak. On top of the shadows we have attractively dressed, beautiful women, plenty of clinches and what seems like an abundance of scenes taking place in doorways. Basically "The Locket" feels like it has taken the play list for film-noir and worked its way through the list several times over, ticking them off as it goes. The thing is that it seems to try too hard to deliver what you expect from film-noir and so it ends up too manufactured.
Because of what appears to me is forced film-noir styling it makes "The Locket" come close to being just visual entertainment at times which is the case when it comes to the casting as Laraine Day and Robert Mitchum look fabulous together. Plus Mitchum has one of those faces which seems to be even greater when shadow obscures everything but his eyes.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Locket" is an entertaining movie thanks to its nested nature of flashbacks probably entertains film-noir fanatics a lot more than general movie fans due to its heavy styling.