Mystery Street (1950) is a film noir about “the other side” of the other side. A b-girl picks up a guy at a bar and they drive off to Cape Cod for the night, only she drops him half-way there and drives off for another rendezvous: expecting to meet her lover, she meets her death. After this seedy introduction, the film steers into the story of a young detective, played by Richard Montalban, giddy over his first murder case. Much like He Walked by Night (1948), Mystery Street demystifies police investigations, though it feels more the product of naïve idealism than gritty reality.
At one point, a Harvard professor walks through how he reassembled the bones of a skeleton, and then determined that the victim was a girl, aged 24, 65 inches tall, and danced on her toes frequently. He is the real hero of the film, the professor who reconstructs the crime, not the police officer in doubt of his capabilities, nor the martyred innocent who was falsely accused. The killer also defies the typical anti-hero nature of so many film noir: he is peripheral, and largely ignored. There are no psychological or any –ical sides to him at all, save for the logical basics: he killed his pregnant girlfriend so his wife wouldn’t find out.
Killing the girlfriend is timeless. It's just not deep enough, or dark enough, to carry the movie all alone.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.