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My Name Is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945)


     A deliciously high-concept B-noir that doesn’t quite have the reputation it deserves, Joseph H. Lewis’ 1945 My Name Is Julia Ross compares favorably with the films that Hitchcock was producing during the period. Most explicitly reminiscent of that director’s Rebecca, Julia Ross posits a conspiracy in which a young woman is hired on as a rich family’s secretary only to become entrapped by them. In this nightmarish scenario, she is told that she is, in fact, a delusional member of their family. Before long, a nefarious plot becomes evident, and the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse game in which the heroine tries to outwit her captors.


     My Name Is Julia Ross is a short feature, running about 65 minutes long, but that leanness is a definite asset. The script dives into its story immediately, and the brevity exercised throughout also ensures there’s no fat on the script. As a result, the movie moves from one terrible revelation to the next, with little time given for audience recovery. As each of Julia’s escape attempts are foiled, scenes are cut off, with only a disappointed reaction shot of actress Nina Foch. This surprisingly nasty movie becomes doubly terrible because it doesn’t pad itself out with comic relief and supporting cast members. There’s an unfortunately rushed ending, but even that feels like a small price to pay for a film that so consistently cuts to the bone.


     The Gothic atmosphere here is palpable, which is even more impressive given that the film was clearly made on a limited budget. The bulk of the plot unfolds in a classic movie mansion, replete with a black cat, an ominous staircase, and a secret passage. Although the machinations of the family that holds Julia captive are unlikely, they are just plausible enough to be scary. The contributions of director Lewis, who is also credited with such B-movie classics as Gun Crazy and The Big Combo, help matters considerably. His camera placement frequently leaves the viewer disoriented, or literally in the dark. From the hazy, rain-soaked opening shot, to the confused point of view shots that occur as Julia wakes up in a world that she doesn’t recognize as her own, Lewis, like his script, works to keep us unbalanced.



Jeremy Heilman