Mystery, Drama | 111 mins | Released: 1949
Director: Arthur Lubin
Starring: Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, Anna May Wong, Robert Warwick, Clarence Kolb
Our Rating: 7
Black & White

In the film Impact, Millionaire industrialist Walter Williams (Donlevy) has a young wife, Irene (Walker), who is trying to kill him with the help of her young lover, Jim Torrance (Tony Barrett). The plan falls apart when Williams survives a hit on the head from the would-be killer. Attempting to flee the scene in Williams’ Packard Clipper convertible, Torrance dies in a fiery head-on collision. The body is mistakenly identified as Williams.

The wounded, dazed Williams ends up in the fictional small town of Larkspur, Idaho (filmed in Larkspur, California). He gets a job as a service station mechanic and falls in love with Marsha (Raines), the station’s owner. Meanwhile, the police arrest Williams’ wife for his “murder.” After Marsha eventually persuades Walter to go back to clear his wife, he is charged with murdering Torrance. Marsha enlists the help of kindly police detective Quincy (Coburn) to prove Walter’s innocence.

Movie Notes:

Impact is a 1949 film noir drama directed by Arthur Lubin, starring Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines. It was filmed entirely in California and included scenes filmed at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and other locations around the city. Impact was based on a story by film noir writer Jay Dratler. The supporting cast features Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, Anna May Wong, Philip Ahn and William Wright.

Impact was Anna May Wong’s first screen appearance since 1942. The actor Tom Greenway made his first appearance on screen as an unnamed moving van driver. Sheilah Graham appears as herself, reading a news item about the case on the radio.

In the 1940s, it was still uncommon for brand name products to be seen in movies, but this was a notable exception. A Bekins moving van is prominent in several scenes. The movie trade paper Harrison’s Reports typically called attention to cases in which such products appeared on screen and always took a stand against that practice. Although its review did not mention Bekins, the Harrison’s review noted “advertising plugs worked in for such products as Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Raleigh cigarettes, Coca-Cola, Mission Orange soda pop, Mobil oil gasoline, oil and tires, Gruen watches, and the trade name, Rexall.” In addition Laykin et Cie at I.Magnin & Co. is featured in the opening credits. Laykin et Cie was the leading West Coast Jeweler with important salons in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the time the movie was shot in 1948. In the opening scenes Donlevy presents Helen Walker with a custom Laykin et Cie intertwined diamond double heart broach with the initials “IW” for Irene Williams, which was produced for the film. Throughout the film, Irene Williams’ character continues to wear various Laykin et Cie jewels of the period.

The film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, panned both the film script for Impact and film itself, writing, “If anyone seeing this picture is willing to string along with that as a fair definition of ‘impact,’ we can’t vouch for the film’s appeal to him. For it seems fairly obvious that the authors have geared their intellects to the suppositional level of that phony lexicon. And everything which happens in the picture is as cheaply opportunist and contrived as that arbitrary definition. You either swallow it whole—or you don’t. Frankly, your correspondent doesn’t.”

More recently, critic Gary W. Tooze praised the B-movie: “As far as ‘modest’ Film Noirs go, this is one of the best. A simple plot idea is twisted to the max for late 1940s audiences.”

The William’s apartment building is the Brocklebank, most famous for its appearance in Vertigo (1958).

Midway through Impact, Walter tells Marsha: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Later, when Marsha asks Walter if he’s returning to hometown, Walter replies: “Wild horses couldn’t drag me back there.” Nearly 25 years after the release of this film, British group The Rolling Stones had a hit with the song “Wild Horses.”

See Charles Coburn in these other movies on MovieZoot