This highly recommended film noir from 1944 by Fritz Lang is a persuasive study of a respectable, professional man (Edward G Robinson) caught up in an unforeseen situation - the involuntary killing of an assailant - that rapidly assumes the qualities of a nightmare which, as nightmares are apt to do, spirals out of control.
From the moment of the initial chance spotting of a portrait of a young woman (Joan Bennett) in the window of a gallery (shades of another film noir, Laura, also from 1944), Lang shows two people under great stress and called upon to take increasingly frantic action to try to ward off disclosure and disaster. I felt that there was a slight loss of momentum in the middle section as Robinson is involved in a prolonged, didactic discussion with a couple of friends, but otherwise the atmosphere of tension is maintained unerringly, and in the latter stages Dan Duryea lends his considerable presence as a cold-hearted villain. He stands at one end of the scale of respectabilty, a man of violence and malevolence, whose other end is occupied by Robinson, a man trying to reason his way out of a chaotic situation. The enigmatic Joan Bennett, whose background is unclear, spans the two worlds.
Without disclosing the details, the film has a famous ending which turns all that has gone before on its head. Every viewer will make up his mind about its merits, but those who dislike it will find that the film is not thereby ruined.
Robinson and Bennett make a great couple, and worked together on several films. He is especially good, playing here against type, and it's ironic that his versatility in playing a good man is one of the unusual aspects of the normally hard-boiled film noir genre.