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David Talbot (William Powell) is a French diplomat with a loving wife,
Lucienne (Hedy Lamarr), and an immaculate reputation. So when he is one
day blackmailed into paying 1 million Francs, he does the only sensible
thing - he calls the police to arrest the extortionist, Le Duc (Vladimir
Sokoloff). However, the trial that follows proves to be almost fatal for
Talbot's career, because you know, he was in a serious train accident 13
years ago and has since been suffering from amnesia - and since Le Duc
claims he is not the man everyone believes him to be but a petty criminal
who has embezzled quite a lot of money. There are several witnesses that
even suggest Le Duc has a point, first and foremost Michelle (Claire
Trevor), who claims he is her former boyfriend, but in the end it's the
testimony of one Henri Sarrou (Basil Rathbone) that puts Le Duc behind
bars and clears Talbot's name.
Thing is though, Sarrou later pays a
visit to Talbot and claims they have been in a robbery together, and
Talbot took off with the loot, just before his accident - and now Sarrou
wants his share of the loot, which he intends to get via blackmail ...
is, Talbot really hasn't got the first clue about his own past, and the
more he researches the more he even starts to believe he isn't really
Talbot but the criminal everybody's suspecting him to be, heck, he even
finds a woman (Margaret Wycherly) who practically claims to be his mother
through feverishly denying it.
Of course, Talbot is not the criminal
these people claim he is, it's just an elaborate extortion stunt thought
up by Sarrou and put into action with the help of Le Duc, Michelle, and
even Talbot's alleged mother (who's nothing but an actress). But the whole
thing is well enough orchestrated to make Talbot fall for it. Of course he
doesn't have the money, but he suggests to embezzle it from the safe of
the Foreign Office, where he has got keys for the safe. Once Sarrou has
his hands on the money though, the police shows up to arrest all the
baddies red-handed and clear Talbot's name for good.
decisive clue was a photograph that shows Michelle and Talbot that's
supposed to be from before his accident - but he has found out the picture
had to be manufactured because his hairline is on the wrong side (it's
explained in the movie), which is why he pretty much lured Sarrou to the
Foreign Office's safe after having called the authorities to provide a
welcome commitee ...
The premise of this film might be a bit
far-fetched, but it works rather well in the context of its story, which
results in an entertaining mystery that keeps even the audience guessing
until the end, despite some fairly obvious clues. In all though, the film
is no masterpiece, it's direction remains a bit too flat and uninspired
throughout, but it features a great cast and is pretty enjoyable genre