Dr Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) hitchhikes his way to San Francisco in order to murder Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie). He walks into her apartment, shoots her and as she lies dying, she narrates her story to us. In the flashback, we see that she is the girlfriend of Frank Olins (Robert Armstrong), a gangster who is about to be executed. Along with Jim Vincent (Edward Norris) and Dr Craig, they conduct a plan that will culminate in them getting all of Frank’s money. Everything looks peachy, if it wasn’t for the fact that Sgt Joseph ‘Jojo’ Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) keeps standing in their way.
Directed by Jack Bernhard, Decoy (1946) is great because of how strange it is. The coffin scene in particular has got to be the most bizarre scene in a noir ever, and there have been quite a few (Lloyd Nolan’s fate in The Chase (1946) comes to mind), but it simply has to be seen to be fully appreciated. And that goes for a lot of moments in the film. However, the standout aspect for me is Sheldon Leonard’s performance. I so wish he could have played more roles like that! Full of cynicism and one-liners, he is not to be played with. Well, almost.
I like Decoy and I like the fact that it has achieved a cult status over the years. Weird and brilliantly surreal, Decoy is, in many ways, the perfect cult classic.