Strange Illusion

Screening on Film
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.
With Jimmy Lydon, Warren William, Sally Eilers.
US, 1945, 35mm, 87 min.
Print source: UCLA

Shakespeare is given the Hardy Boys treatment by Edgar Ulmer in his liberal transformation of Hamlet into an All-American college freshman home from school who is inspired by weird nightmares to investigate the mysterious death of his father, the town’s prominent judge. Among the legendary Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Company’s more ambitious projects, Strange Illusion was originally intended for Joseph H. Lewis but ultimately assigned to the equally adept stylist Ulmer, who released ample fog and modernist angles to give eerie atmospherics to the film, beginning with its evocative dream sequence opening.

A clear extension of his leading role as a Boy Scout detective in Paramount’s popular Henry Aldrich series, Jimmy Lydon’s Hamlet conveys a wide-eyed naiveté that cuts almost subversively against the feverishly Gothic Freudianism percolating throughout Strange Illusion. Meanwhile, the perennial villain Warren William lends his trademark lecherousness to the film’s Claudius, determined at all costs to seduce and destroy the wife of the judge and uber-father-figure who once convicted him.

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