Aug. 3, the Psychotronic Film Society salutes the life and career of legendary actress, producer and entrepreneur Lucille Ball just three days shy of what would have been her 105th birthday (she passed away in 1989), with a rare public screening of one of her least-known roles — in the 1947 film noir mystery “Lured.”
Many folks are unaware that for decades before she became a household name for her lead role in the timeless TV sitcom “I Love Lucy,” Ball had starred in dozens of big-screen films of all genres. In fact, at one point, she found herself nicknamed “Queen of the B-Pictures,” a title previously awarded to fellow beauty “King Kong” star Fay Wray. Understandably, those early roles tend to remain forgotten or undervalued in the wake of her immense TV stardom as a purveyor of zany slapstick humor.
“Lured” was made four years before that eponymous sitcom premiered and is actually a remake of director Robert Siodmak’s earlier French film “Personal Column.” This picture finds Ball playing an American stage performer who travels to England for a role and winds up working undercover for Scotland Yard after one of her friends falls victim to a serial murderer who attracts his victims through classified ads in the newspapers (think of him as an old-school Craigslist killer). Critics found “Lured” to be a bit more “lighthearted” than other noirs of this type — especially given its subject matter. One even described Ball’s character as reminiscent of the famed fictional detective Nancy Drew.
With a supporting cast that includes such British stage and screen luminaries as George Sanders (“Rebecca”), Boris Karloff (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”) and Alan Napier (Alfred the butler on the old Adam West-led “Batman” TV series), it’s a delightful, overlooked picture that was — get this — directed by none other than the great Douglas Sirk (!), whose film career became immensely celebrated decades later upon critical reappraisal of his lush, ironic Hollywood melodramas such as “All That Heaven Allows” and “Imitation of Life.” Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission.