Back before Lucille Ball became a household name as a redheaded funny lady, Hollywood wasn’t sure what to do with her. Lured is an interesting film noir from the 40s, also starring George Sanders, and a host of sinister antics, revolving around a string of brutal murders.
Sandra (Ball) is a tough-talking dance hall girl. You know, the kind that hangs out in a decked-out-ballroom, in a gorgeous dress, and dances with men half the night. The gents pay for the experience, but aren’t allowed to touch. A street-wise woman, she casts a doubtful eye on her best friend’s idealistic ambitions about the future. And when her friend goes missing, Sandra fears the worst.
One thing leads to another, and she winds up in the middle of a police investigation. The local constable wants her help in sussing out the serial killer who offed her gal pal. Though a little intimidated by the idea, Lucille agrees. Since the cops know the man stalks his victims through the personal ads in the local paper, she answers all of them—and has a series of weird and whacky encounters, from a sinister former artist who seems to have gone off the deep end, to a boy holding flowers in the park. Nobody is what they seem, and she has a reason to suspect even the charming man who has caught her eye (Sanders) of being one evil dude.
Though panned by the critics and not a big hit on re-release, Lured has decent acting chops behind it, and the bonus of seeing Lucille in a role that doesn’t involve Lucy setting fire to her dress or cramming chocolates in her mouth because she can’t keep up with the conveyer belt. It’s not her forte, but she does her best, and Sanders is, as usual, a good foil for his leading lady. All suave and a little bit sinister, the audience doesn’t know how much to trust him, but is sure of one thing—he’s a dapper playboy who has never held down a relationship longer than a week in his life.
Though I don’t want to sound cranky, those kinds of men never make a leading lady a decent husband. There is no ‘reforming’ a chronic playboy, and no reason to assume being with you will make him any different. So that’s the only sour spot in this olive-martini of a motion picture. It has all the glam of the 40s, from the spiffed up shoes and glitzy hairstyles to the rumpled trench coats and hidden revolvers. Lucille gets to swan around for a while in a breathtaking dress and then shows up in a series of stylish suits. The peril is, as one expects, bone-chilling with a hint of sass. And because it had to pass the censors, we don’t get the mutilated naked corpses that fill our screens today, nor have to watch gruesome killings in flashback, and most of the violence appears cast in deep shadows.
Just don’t watch it at night. You may get the urge to lock your bedroom door. You never know what kind of scoundrel might lurk outside in the bushes.
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