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No Man's Woman

Olive Films // Unrated // October 27, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 22, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Carolyn Ellenson-Grant (Marie Windsor) has at least a couple of people under her thumb, and she's always looking to add to the collection. First, there's her husband Harlow Grant (John Archer), from whom she's been estranged for a couple of years. When they first separated, he declined her offer to get a divorce, and now that he's gone and found himself a new woman he'd like to marry, Louise Nelson (Nancy Gates), she won't give him his freedom without an exorbitant fee. Not only does this pin Harlow and Louise down, but it even ropes in Harlow's father Philip (Douglas Wood). Meanwhile, Carolyn herself has a new beau, Wayne Vincent (Patric Knowles), a newspaper columnist who helps her out by writing up the fine art she has for sale in his column. Finally, there's her sweet-natured assistant, Betty Allen (Jil Jarmyn), whose hard work and dedication are rewarded by Carolyn with her attempt to snatch up Betty's fiance, a sweet-natured sailor named Dick Sawyer (Richard Crane).

With Carolyn putting the pressure on each of these people in different, devious ways, it should come as no surprise that someone decides to murder her in the middle of the night. When the caretaker at her business complex discovers the body, the police have plenty of suspects to sift through. Has Betty fallen for one of Carolyn's manipulations? Has a late night of binge-drinking gone wrong for Harlow? Was Vincent too stung by Carolyn's emotionless assessment of his value to her? Did Dick lash out over Carolyn's attempt to make him a sap? Could it have even been Louise or Philip? These are the questions that make up No Man's Woman, a pleasant but straightforward 70-minute thriller that is so free of twists and turns that one has to ask a paragraph worth of rhetorical questions to flesh out a review.

For many or even most viewers, the main reason to watch the film will not be the plot, but seeing Marie Windsor twist everyone around her finger, and enjoy doing it. Although this kind of character isn't a personal favorite, those who do enjoy the archetype will no doubt take a wicked, vampy enjoyment from seeing how casually Carolyn tricks Betty into staying at the office instead of going on a boat trip with Dick, then manages to get herself invited on the same boat trip in her place, or openly scoffs at Wayne when he reveals that their relationship has come back to bite him and expects her to stand by him. Windsor, with large eyes and wide grin, strides through the film like a wrecking ball, with Carolyn clearly taking great pleasure in being able to turn from sweet to sadistic on a dime, with little in her sights but her own happiness.

The only problem with this is that Windsor is only in half of the film, meeting her untimely death just after the midpoint. A more modern incarnation of the film would almost certainly cut between the "before" and "after" timelines so that the viewer can get bursts of Windsor's energy throughout the movie, but No Man's Woman just shifts itself over to an investigation into who killed her, which is not quite so bad as to be boring, but is certainly both low-energy and low-stakes. As one would expect, everyone is set up with an alibi that could just as easily be a lie as it could be true, and pieces like a set of keys to Carolyn's business have been left in a location where any of those involved could get to it. Although the filmmakers don't really do anything wrong in setting up the mystery, there's little reason for the audience to actually care who did it as opposed to hoping that the innocent parties are absolved of the crime, which renders the reveal underwhelming.

There are other aspects of the film that would normally be worth questioning, such as an obvious plot hole in the way Carolyn attempts to strong-arm Dick into attending a dinner with him, but No Man's Woman never feels like it's putting enough effort into itself to really be bothered. It's less of a real movie than it is a movie pitch, one in which Marie Windsor treats a bunch of people like playthings and pays a price for it. Although its plot may sound heavy, it's as light as entertainments come.

The Blu-ray
Olive Films' single-disc release comes with the original painted poster art, which highlights Windsor. The single-disc release comes in a boxy Infiniti Blu-ray case, and there is a postcard insert that will net those who send it in a copy of Olive's catalog.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.66:1 1080p AVC and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack, No Man's Woman's adequate thrills are presented adequately on Blu-ray. The black-and-white image has a light layer of film grain, impressive clarity and sharpness for a film of its vintage, and extremely minor print damage. Bigger, more lavish films from the same era have looked more impressive on Blu-ray, but there's nothing actually wrong with the acceptable image on this disc, which is definitely up to HD standards. (The only quibbling question would be whether or not 1.66:1 was actually No Man's Woman's original aspect ratio -- 1.33:1 would seem more likely).

Sound is also fine, with most of the effort going into the dialogue. Music and effects are also presented with a nice clarity, although there is of course no real surround activity to speak of, and as is Olive's usual M.O., no subtitles or captions on the disc of any kind.

The Extras

No Man's Woman is a breezy 70 minutes -- so breezy, in fact, that it's hard to imagine anyone finding the movie overly memorable or needing to revisit it time and time again except the biggest Marie Windsor fans. Olive's presentation, as well as the film itself, are perfectly acceptable...which would probably make for a better rental than a buy.

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