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Laura (Gene Tierney) is murdered in her apartment, and when detective
McPherson (Dana Andrews) starts to investigate, he finds a few too many
suspects with strong motives, but neither of them seems to qualify as the
actual murderer: There's Laura's fatherly friend Waldo (Clifton Webb), who
regards her as his creation, is a bitter cynic and suffers from jealousy,
there is her fiancé Sheldy (Vincent Price), a good-for-nothing womanizer
who had many an affair behind her back, there's her aunt Ann (Judith
Anderson), who actually introduced her to Shelby, but wants him for
himself, and there's a model Shelby had an affair with who remains
elusive. Especially Waldo and Shelby fight over her, even after her death,
and each tries to make the other look guilty ...
The more McPherson
investigates, the more he falls in love with Laura, a woman he has
actually never even met. Then Laura shows up very much alive in her
apartment, where he has fallen asleep going through her mail and diary,
and she is not even aware that she's supposed to be dead, which puts a
whole new spin on the case: Turns out the elusive model is the dead woman,
and Shelby had a date with her in Laura's apartment. Despite all of this,
Laura soon seems to cover for Shelby and he covers for her ... and it only
eventually turns out they were only covering for each other because they
suspected the respective other to be guilty.
McPherson gets more and
more desperate to crack the case, so he eventually makes an arrest in
front of all the suspects - Laura. Of course, he hasn't believed in her
guilt for even an instant, but he figures the arrest will get the real
killer out into the open ...
Eventually, McPherson finds the decisive
clue, a secret cabinet in Laura's grandfather's clock that was given to
her by Waldo and which he was desperate to get back after her suspected
death - and in that cabinet, there's the gun used in the murder of the
model. For some reason, McPherson leaves the gun where it was and
indirectly confronts Waldo with the fact that he suspects him, suspects
him of having tried to shoot Laura out of jealousy and only hit the othre
woman by mistake. When Waldo sees Laura being drawn to the cop, jealousy
gets the better of him again and after the police is gone, he sneaks back
into her apartment to try and shoot her again, with the gun he knows is
still in the grandfather's clock - but this time, the police arrives to
save the woman and kill Waldo before he can kill her ...
is widely regarded as a masterpiece of film noir filmmaking, and
deservedly so, it's elegantly directed, features a great cast, and tells a
great plot in an interesting way. However, upon closer inspection, one
can't help but find a few narrative flaws in the film's finale: Why on
earth does McPherson leave the murder weapon in its place after he has
found it, how come Waldo carries bullets for his gun with him even when he
doesn't carry the gun, and how come the police leave Laura pretty much
unprotected after they have found the murderer and told him they suspect
him? And why didn't McPherson arrest him right away? And since we're
asking questions anyway, why did Shelby have a date with the other woman
in not his but his fiancée's apartment?
All questions that would
deserve an answer, but none of these really matter while watching the film
because it's made in such an expert way it just polishes over its
narrative shortcomings so they hardly matter at least while you watch the