Fingers at the Window
D: Charles Lederer
W: Rose Caylor & Lawrence P. Bachmann
S: Lew Ayres, Laraine Day & Basil Rathbone
Rated PG - Approx 80 Minutes
- DANGER AT NIGHTFALL!
ROMANCE AT DAYBREAK!
Dedos Diabólicos (Diabolical Fingers) - Brazil
Schatten am Fenster (Shadow at the Window) - Germany
Follia scatenata (Madness Unleashed) - Italy
"Very pretty shot, Inspector. A bullseye!"
Turner Classic Movies never ceases to astound me. There I was searching for Halloween goodies to stock up the ol' DVR with and while searching through the listings, I happened across this interesting title: Fingers at the Window. "Gee, that sounds like it could be a horror flick" I said to myself. Was I right? Well, no....not exactly....I certainly would not classify this as an outright horror flick. More like murder-mystery noir with horror overtones.
See there's been a rash of ax murders in Chicago. Now before you say "1940's Slasher Flick" (which is what I thought I had stumble onto at first) I should tell you that these murders are not all committed by a single homicidal maniac. In fact each of the six murders were committed by six different men. Each of them highly mentally disturbed.....and I do mean DISTURBED....we're talking One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest here. So what's tying it all together? Why are mental patients suddenly taking up axes and chopping up the good citizens of Chicago? Ah, well, therein lies the mystery.
I don't think it's really a spoiler to tell you that it's the work of a single mastermind who is manipulating these men to murder. That we find out quite early on. It's the who and it's the why that make up the mystery.
Our two main protagonists, Edwina Brown and Oliver Duffy meet one night when Duffy spies a man with an ax following Edwina down a darkened street. Oliver being the wonderful and caring fellow that he is escorts Edwina home and watches over her from the fire escape. Seems like sticking your neck out quite a bit for someone you just met....but hey, what do I know.
As you may suspect a romance begins to brew between the two as the mystery deepens and another madman tries to turn Edwina into chopped liver (and intestines....and pancreas....and spleen). Duffy is on the case and (much to the chagrin of Inspector Gallagher, the lead homicide man on the case) starts to play detective himself.
The acting is delightfully over the top in typical 40's fashion. Duffy (played by Lew Ayers) isn't exactly a dashing hero but he's quite amusing and clever. Edwina (played by Laraine Day) is quite beautiful and their chemistry on screen is warm yet a bit wonky. Though it's played for humor, their banter back and forth is at times funny yet off putting as he outright calls her an idiot or tells another character that she hasn't got the brains of a pancake. You get the sense that they were attempting to make them something of a comedy team with Duffy as the partner with the one liners....but it adds unintentional humor where it doesn't belong. Edwina doesn't help matters much with some of her dialog either. At one point confessing that she'd been lying about important information before because she was afraid that he wouldn't be romantically interested in her anymore. I'll tell ya what....if someone's trying to chop me up with an ax....I'll worry about romance after the stalker and potential killer is taken care of.
Likewise the police and the psychiatrist they hire to help profile the killer are some of the most gullible and dim witted I've seen in some time. A psychiatrist who is supposedly one of the most respected and renowned in the entire world was easily fooled into thinking that Duffy was mental patient simply because he emulated what he saw another mental patient doing a few hours before. No examination. No Rorschach Test....no nothing. Five minutes of conversation and BLAMMO! He's got a full diagnosis for his "disorder" and not only that, allows him access to patient files because he believes him to be harmless!!! The police go along with whatever anybody tells them without much investigation or examination. It's a bit frustrating at times, but ultimately it all adds to the films wonky charms.
Are you kidding? This was made in 1942! No gore.
No creatures....but you do get several ax murderers stalking the streets of Chicago and an evil mastermind!
Don't let my small rant before sway you. The character flaws with the protagonists, psychiatrist and police are really minor grips in the long run. If you are a fan of classic films and noir films in particular then I think that you'll have a lot of fun with this one. There are some great uses of light and shadow in the cinematography and the revelation and resolution of the mystery at the end are quite satisfying.
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls