A few years ago, before cancelling my cable, I caught this 1958 film on Turner Classic Movies channel. Its director Gerd Oswald is a not particularly renowned figure who holds a special place for fans of classic TV (he directed a bunch of OUTER LIMITS episodes) and a certain small pocket of directorially focused and historically inclined film-nuts, most of them probably guided by the great Andrew Sarris, who wrote a wonderful tribute to him in his book THE AMERICAN CINEMA: DIRECTORS AND DIRECTIONS 1929-1968. That resource, which was pretty much ground-zero for English language auteurist film writing as well as a guide-source for movie-buff directors like Scorsese and Tarantino, was broken down into themed sections where Oswald fell under the group labeled as "Expressive Esoterica", and it was this corral to which I was attracted like a moth to an uncovered light bulb. Roughly half of this bunch toiled in the thankless landscape of the B-movie, a constant thread in the history of American film that wasn't really killed off until episodic television thoroughly entrenched itself as the way most people entertained themselves (the Grindhouse-era is the sometimes berserk and often sordid icing on this decades long cake), only to be resurrected in an inferior fashion with the largely undistinguished shelf-filling straight-to-video crap that appeared in the '80s "home-theatre"-period. Oswald was certainly a B director (the two exceptions to this were a film that featured Bob fucking Hope and a later '60s cash-in on the Bond craze called AGENT FOR H.A.R.M., two movies that Sarris calls "pre-doomed"), having to consistently deal with five to seven day shooting schedules and not particularly inspiring materials.
One of the great works of film scholarship
One of the first detectable qualities of MIMI is that its script is no great shakes. It's not "bad" (at least not in a groan or guffaw inspiring sense), but it is rather undistinguished in how it services the story. Oh yeah, the story. It's about a hubba-hubba blonde dancer named Virginia and as the film opens she gets attacked by a knife wielding psycho while taking an outdoor shower. The killer gets subdued by her shotgun toting relative (importantly, a sculptor) but Virginia is understadably traumatized and ends up in a sanitarium. While there, her doctor develops an attraction to her and his feelings take a left turn on the way to love and land smack dab in the territory of unhealthy and controlling obsession. Next thing we know, she's out of the hospital and working in a night club under the name Yolanda. A newspaper reporter falls into the story, and he's curious about this dancer's aloof personality and her possessive manager (yes, the doctor mentioned above). Then Yolanda finds herself attacked by another unknown manic with a knife, gets out of the hospital, engages in a brief tryst with the reporter, and starts acting more and more strange. Add in to the story these small sculptures of a stressed-out woman with flailing arms (I'll stop here for the spoiler averse), and you've got the basics for a no-reputation '50s-era suspense flick with some serious potential. The opening scene shows that at least some of that potential is going to be cashed in. It has a suitably rugged sensibility that's appropriate for a movie where the female lead gets attacked in the first few minutes by a man with a knife covered with the fresh blood of her dog (killed off-screen, natch). Additionally, this set up is also conceived with the dual intention of hooking the audience and withholding the fact that the pivotal character is played by a woman who wasn't cast for her acting abilities. Anita Ekberg was a European looker who is probably best remembered for appearing in Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA, but to be frank, she wasn't cast in that art-house staple for her thespian qualities, either.