The Great Flamarion (1945): Love is a Gun

Mexico 1936. A small crowd is queuing to buy tickets to a vaudeville-style show. The camera follows the patrons down the center aisle as they find seats, and then moves just short of the stage and settles on the current musical act. The opening shot continues as Tony Cómico starts his skit until it is interrupted by two gun-shots followed by a woman’s scream from off-stage.  Cut backstage. All panic but sex is the focus. Well-endowed chorines with shapely legs run amok. The commotion settles as a female performer’s body is found in a dressing room. Meanwhile only the viewer knows a man is hiding above the stage. The cops arrive, investigate, and leave, and Tony the comic is left to lock-up. The man above the stage falls down onto the stage. He is mortally wounded. He must tell all quickly. There is no time as he will be dead by the time the cops are called. He confesses to the murder and in flashback relates his story to Tony.

The use of  flashback destroys the mystery. The film from this point has no tension, and all unfolds predictably. Director Anthony Mann in this early effort does only an adequate job dragging proceedings along . The murderer is played by the ever eccentric Erich von Stroheim, and the amply nubile b-regular Mary Beth Hughes is a femme-fatale high on aphrodisiac, with her always drunk husband a perfect fit for Dan Duryea, who early on suffers the same fate as Phyllis Dietrichson’s better-half. So we have a murder from Scarlet Street (1945) out-of Double Indemnity (1944).

What is interesting though is the overtly sexual mise-en-scene. Guns as deadly erotic toys and the female body displayed as deeply fecund and corrupting.  The story was written by Anne Wigton, who also worked on the screenplay. Another b-noir Strange Impersonation, where a dame is a blackmailer, released in the following year, was also based on a story by Wigton. Wigton wrote only two stories after acting in bit-parts in the early 40s, and before disappearing into obscurity.

As well as predatory female sexuality, The Great Flamarion features an anti-hero who shows no remorse for killing the hapless husband. This is not Scarlet Street, and there is no honeysuckle.





2 thoughts on “The Great Flamarion (1945): Love is a Gun”

  1. “So we have a murder from Scarlet Street (1945) out-of Double Indemnity (1944).”

    Ha! Good point there Tony! Well I have seen both THE GREAT FLAMARION and STRANGE IMPERSONATION. I saw these at the Anthony Mann Film Festival in Manhattan two years ago, and the former just played this past Monday at the same institution as part of the Erich Von Stroheim Festival. Of course I took a pass on that one. I would agree that THE GREAT FLAMARION, though well-shot by James S. Brown does fall apart in the latter stages, and can never be considered as anything more than a B thriller. Von Stroheim himself is always a marvelous screen presence, though with the downward spiral one might think that Emil Jannings may be even better for the role. I absolutely agree that sex is the primary focus here. I’d define this film as a guilty pleasure.

    As always your essay here is superbly written and your observations are fascinating.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: