Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 8, 2021)
On the back of the Blu-ray for 1948’s I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes, Warner Archives promises us “a fascinating film noir gem ripe for rediscovery!” We’ll see if the movie merits that description.
Married couple Tom (Don Castle) and Ann Quinn (Elyse Knox) struggle to make ends meet as a dance team, though she tends to act as the main breadwinner via lessons she gives to sad sacks really there for a little female companionship. One night, Tom tosses his shoes out the window to quiet noisy alley cats.
Unfortunately for Tom, someone uses these shoes to implicate him in the murder of a local man. Ann works to prove his innocence before the authorities execute him.
Usually when an old, largely forgotten movie gets a Blu-ray release, it occurs because someone in the cast and/or crew boasts fame. You’ll find no “names” among the actors or primary behind the camera talent with Shoes, though.
Indeed, producer Walter Mirisch offers the only well-known figure we find here. Later an Oscar-winner for 1967’s In the Heat of the Night and also a figure behind classics like The Magnificent Seven, Shoes acted as Mirisch’s second big screen credit.
That gives Shoes some historical context. Still, it really does appear as forgotten as the Blu-ray’s case implies.
That said, some viewers may encounter a sense of déjà vu as they watch Shoes - or at least I did. The plot of Shoes bears a more than minor resemblance to the story of 1946’s Black Angel.
Both films involve men unjustly accused of murder, and both focus on their wives’ attempts to exonerate them. Probably not coincidentally, both also come from works written by Cornell Woolrich.
Did Woolrich always write tales like this? Given that my only knowledge of his efforts comes from movies that adapt his text, I can’t say.
However, all three of the Woolrich adapations I’ve seen - Shoes, Angel and 1944’s Phantom Lady - deal with men accused of murders they didn’t commit. That sure makes Woolrich look like a one-trick plotter.
Angel left me cold, but Lady worked pretty well. This left me curious to see if Shoes would break the tie as a good Woolrich adaptation or as a dud.
Unfortunately, Shoes leans much closer to stinker than winner. In particular, the movie suffers because it comes with unsympathetic leads who act like morons.
From the minute we meet Tom, he comes across like a jealous, insecure hot head. Ann fares little better, as she soon leaves the impression of a conniving, greedy woman who feels happy to profit from the misfortune of others.
Of course, movies don’t need likable or sympathetic characters to work, but this one does. So much of the story revolves around the attempts to establish Tom’s innocence that we need to invest in his fate.
We don’t. While we may not wish he’d die, we just don’t care much about him or Ann, so the tale’s potential emotional impact fails to materialize.
In addition, Tom and Ann act like such dopes along the way that it becomes even more difficult to invest in their journey. The film invents a contrived, stupid reason for them to keep some found money that adds to the evidence against Tom, and this greed again makes them unsympathetic.
At least Shoes runs a mere 71 minutes, so it doesn’t waste too much of our time. Nonetheless, it delivers a flawed noir effort.