Before he revolutionized the women's film with such gleefully melodramatic works as Written on the Wind and Magnigicent Obsession, director Douglas Sirk made a series of glossy thrillers flavored by European settings (shortly after his emigration to the U.S. from Germany). Like the films for which he would become famous, Lured revels in the glamour and romance that Hollywood had honed to perfection, and plays every scene -- every coy glance, every deadly encounter -- the melodramatic hilt. In Lured, a serial killer terrorized London, trapping his prey through personal ads in the newspaper and taunting the police with gruesome poems. A Scotland Yard detective (Charles Coburn) enlists the aid of a feisty American redhead (a truly captivating Lucille Ball) to draw the murderer into the dragnet, and leads her across the paths of a variety of peculiar suspects -- including a demented clothing designer (Boris Karloff) and an international playboy (George Saunders) -- all of whom seem to have designs on the Yard's most delectable decoy.
Lucille Ball is in fine pre-TV form--still more the glamorous redhead than the slapstick comedienne--in Lured
, Douglas Sirk's elegantly handled low-budget whodunit. Ball plays an American nightclub dancer in London, recruited by the police as a decoy for a serial killer--a maniac who finds his victims through the newspaper personal ads. The guilty party isn't difficult to guess, but the script by Leo Rosten is more literate than most such endeavors, and it's fun to watch our out-of-place heroine brazen it out in the London fog. George Sanders is the most cultivated of her suitors, and there's a weird sequence featuring Boris Karloff as a dress designer with crackpot designs on Lucy. Maybe best of all, the film has a crowd of good character actors: Charles Coburn (as a Scotland Yard inspector who becomes protective of his amateur agent), Cedric Hardwicke, Alan Mowbray, Joseph Calleia, and especially George Zucco, a frequent movie villain in a sympathetic role as an avuncular cop. Sirk brings his Germanic precision to the details, and cameraman William Daniels (Greta Garbo's favorite) no doubt had a hand in making Ball look good. Lured
was subsequently re-titled Personal Column
, much to Sirk's annoyance. --Robert Horton