Strange Illusion (1945) - Rotten Tomatoes

Strange Illusion (1945)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Strange Illusion is really several movies in one, part dark psychological chiller, part unsettling murder mystery, and part breezy B-movie thriller, although most of its plot is derived from Shakespeare's +Hamlet. Jimmy Lydon, best-known to audiences for his screen portrayal of Henry Aldrich during the early '40s, plays Paul Cartwright, the son of a respected judge who died under mysterious circumstances two years earlier. Paul is haunted by nightmares in which his father warns him of danger to his mother, and in which a mysterious stranger seems to threaten him and his family. He dismisses these dreams until his mother (Sally Eilers) introduces him to a new man in her life, Brett Curtis (Warren William), who says some of the very same things that Paul heard from the mystery man in his dream. There's a lot to dislike about Curtis despite his smooth, genial ways -- he seems too eager to please, and also offers an oily solicitousness to Paul's teenaged sister that's downright disturbing. Paul openly distrusts Curtis and opposes his mother's impending marriage to him. Most of those around him think Paul is overreacting and he is maneuvered into checking himself into a sanitarium run by a psychiatrist friend (Charles Arnt) of Curtis'. Trapped there and kept under constant surveillance, Paul is in danger, but he manages to find a clue that proves not only that his father's death was no accident, but that Curtis was involved in it. His discovery may be too late, however -- not only is his life in jeopardy, but it turns out that Curtis is really a career criminal that Paul's father had pursued from the bench for years, and that his real goal, having killed the judge, is to destroy the judge's family, including Paul's mother and sister. The plot of Strange Illusion works on many levels, as mystery and a dark psychological study, and it is told so smoothly and well by director Edgar G. Ulmer and his cast, that it may require multiple viewings to fully appreciate, though it is enjoyable on any level.

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James Lydon
as Paul Cartwright
Sally Eilers
as Virginia Cartwright
Warren William
as Brett Curtis
Regis Toomey
as Dr. Vincent
Charles Arnt
as Prof. Muhlbach
Jimmy Lydon
as Paul Cartwright
Jayne Hazard
as Dorothy Cartwright
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Critic Reviews for Strange Illusion

All Critics (7)

Though saddled with the script's fetish for Freud, Ulmer stylizes his thriller without sending it adrift. Like his other great films, Strange Illusion is a shaggy quickie that takes fine shape throughout.

February 18, 2011
Film Threat

Hamlet on Poverty Row

Full Review… | April 2, 2010

Visually inventive crime thriller, with many strange sequences.

Full Review… | January 18, 2005
Classic Film and Television

An engrossing premise courtesy of Mr. Shakespeare.

Full Review… | September 18, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Strange Illusion marks prolific filmmaker Edgar G. Ulmer's trip into Hitchcock territory, with often underwhelming results.

Full Review… | December 5, 2003
Reel Film Reviews

A lesser Ulmer.

January 17, 2003
San Francisco Examiner

Audience Reviews for Strange Illusion


The opening dream sequence is kind of interesting with overlapping shots. It didn't occur to me until after skimming other reviews here on Flixster that the plot of the young man worried about his mother's new dangerous fiancé has its source in Hamlet. I suppose it does contain that influence, but toward the end it feels a bit like Scooby-Doo with the meddling teenagers. Ulmer, the director, does seems to make the most of the low budget, but some of the performances, primarily the main character Paul and his buddy George, lack refinement. Warren William as the soon to be father-in-law, Brett Curtis, has a great face for this type of suspicious and evil character.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer


When I saw that this was a cheapie noir directed by Edgar G. Ulmer with no-name actors, I had high hopes for another Detour. Alas, no. A kind of Hardy Boys-ish mystery that's really no mystery at all, with lousy acting (especially by Jimmy Lydon in the lead), very few surprises and an overbearing score. Not to mention some instances of sexism (oh those gullible women!) and racism, thankfully somewhat mild. The one really unusual thing about it is that it all centers around a premonition, as Lydon's dreams come true. This really turned me off... I'm not interested in the paranormal when it comes to my noir. A couple of interesting touches (like the villain having a weakness for raping young ladies) but not enough to save the rest of it.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

He sounds like a subject for some mental analysis A young man has issues with his mother's new boyfriend. Initially, he finds the man peculiar; however, with some additional research, he discovers the boyfriend may be a cold blooded killer. When the young man tries to convince others of his findings, he is locked away in an insane asylum. A close friend tries to help the young man prove his case. "The boy came home unexpectantly." "Violent?" "Definitely." Edgar Ulmer, director of The War of 1995, Hannibal (1959), Escape if You Can, Prisoner of Japan, and The Shocking Truth, delivers Strange Illusion. The storyline for this picture is well done and reminded me of several Hitchcock films. The acting was better than average and the cast includes Jimmy Lydon, Warren William, and Sally Eilers. "I'd like to see some of those old ghost towns." Strange Illusion is part of a Thriller box set I received for Christmas the year before last. I found this picture fascinating and well delivered. This seemed to be an early version of the recent Step Father movie that was released in 2009. I recommend giving this film a shot. "The dream is beginning to happen." Grade: B+

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

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