Decoy Film Details
Overview: A mortally wounded female gangster recounts how she and her gang revived an executed killer from the gas chamber, to try and find out where he buried a fortune in cash.
Tagline: She Treats Men the Way They’ve Been Treating Women for Years!
Review: “A disproportionate number of fondly remembered B pictures fall into the general category of the film noir. Somehow, even mediocrity can become majestic when it is coupled with death.” -Andrew Sarris, “The Beattitudes of B Pictures”, 1974 Monogram, a “Poverty Row” studio fondly remembered today for it’s horror, East Side Kids & Charlie Chan films, also made a few memorable film noirs (THE GANGSTER, SUSPENSE) and DECOY is the jewel in its crown. What would be considered over-the-top in an A Picture is often commonplace in the second feature and this macabre yarn crams quite a bit of plot into its short running time. A dazed, mortally wounded man hitchhikes to San Francisco to shoot a gangland chippie who, in turn, tells a laconic cop in flashback the events leading up to the bloodbath. Seduction, betrayal, prison execution, buried treasure, triple-crosses and casual killings come fast and furious but the most fantastic element is the revival of a dead gangster after the state gives him the gas! In this film’s contained universe the characters, all of whom are either corrupt or corruptable, are driven by greed and lust. The gun moll, Margot Shelby, is probably filmdom’s ultimate femme fatale whom no man, living or dead, can resist -including the cop on the case. The cast includes a few of Hollywood’s most memorable character actors: Robert “King Kong” Armstrong as the executed killer, Sheldon Leonard as the somnambulistically world-weary policeman mesmerized by Margot and Eddie “Mr. Ann Sheridan” Norris as an underworld character also smitten with Shelby. The film revolves around British newcomer Jean Gillie (a corrupted cross between Jean Parker & Veda Ann Borg) as the lethal lovely who’ll let nothing stand in her way as she scrambles for the stolen $400,000 Armstrong buried before he takes his secret to the grave -and even that doesn’t faze her! The ending is both ironic and sardonic and bears out a favorite film noir theme of mine: You can’t win; you can’t break even; you can’t even quit the game …and you’re lucky if you get out alive. Noirometer: Over-the-top and through the roof! A femme fatale in flashback, brief (female) voice-over narration, the use of lighting to mask limited sets due to a restricted budget, a cynical world-view with disareeeable people doing any number of unpleasant things and some innovative directorial touches spell N-O-I-R. The gas chamber execution is filmed from the POV of the condemned man and we see an audience watching us through the glass as the fumes from the gas pellets rise. Later, when the dead man is revived (with “Methylene Blue”), we see (again through his POV) the fog slowly clearing from our eyes in a riff on the FRANKENSTEIN life-giving laboratory scene (“I’m alive!” replacing “It’s alive!”). It could be that the horror elements in this film (which include the greedy girl going mad in a misty graveyard-like setting) are what excludes this film from many a film noir canon. In all fairness, if this is true noir, then so is Paramount’s 1941 B, THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL, which mixes courtroom melodrama, murder and the underworld with brain transplants and revenge, all narrated by a prostitute who walks out of the fog to tell her tale. I would never rate a B movie the same way I would an A feature and this little gem is a perfect example of the Golden Age Second Feature. To say one gets their money’s worth here is an understatement. It’s simply the best and, along with PRC’s DETOUR, can give insight and appreciation to a style of film-making that’s, unfortunately, long gone. Here’s an example of the influence of a studio like Monogram: “Don’t laugh. After all, name another company that has had the honor of having a feature film dedicated to it. Jean-Luc Godard, the former French director-turned-political activist, made his first feature, ‘A Bout de Soufflé’ (BREATHLESS) and told everybody how his film making had been influenced by Monogram Pictures. So Godard became a Maoist. Did anybody ever dedicate a film to MGM?”
Duration: 76 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
Also known as: Decoy,A Mulher Dillinger,Приманка,Blonder Lockvogel,La mujer Dillinger,Die gefährlichste Frau der Welt,Extraña agonía,La rapace,Inganno