Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror (1946 ), for Republic Pictures, is one of the early psychological noir thrillers. The story of two attractive young women, identical twins, implicated in a murder explores the extremes of personality – the dark side, the wraith in the mirror. A theme of the entrapment of the disturbed mind and it’s insatiable demands add a decidedly noir feel to the film. A crisp script from Nunally Johnson, the solid camera-work of Milton Krasner, and a Dimitri Tiomkins score provide competent support. The original story by Vladimir Pozner received an Oscar nomination.
Siodmak’s direction is workman-like with some flair reserved only for the opening scene and the climactic scenes towards the end. The fluid opening scene sees the camera pan from a cityscape at night to a building in the foreground, through a window into a darkened room, up to a smashed mirror, and then down to a man dead on the floor. The smashed mirror is also a book-end in the film’s closing scene – the dark reflection has to be destroyed. As the drama heightens towards the denouement, the insanity of one of the protagonists is melodramatically rendered in a darkened room at night, where key lighting focuses attention on the crazed eyes of a psychopath.
The picture is carried by an elegant and accomplished performance from Olivier de Havilland in the double role of the twin sisters. As their personalities diverge with the story’s progression, so her performance strengthens. By the climax, she is breathtaking. Thomas Mitchell is entertaining as the cop investigating the murder.
Interesting use of a psychologist’s tool-set, Rorschach inkblots, word association, and a polygraph, carry the centre of the film to its dramatic conclusion.
Worth seeing for de Havilland’s subtle performance alone.