A Movie A Day: Quint comes OUT OF THE PAST (1947) It was the bottom of the barrel, and I was scraping it.
Published at: July 23, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Kirk Douglas bridges us from yesteryday’s CAST A GIANT SHADOW to today’s classic noir OUT OF THE PAST starring the lazy-eyed Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Rhonda Flemming and Mr. Douglas.
Now this is a film that lives up to its reputation.
Basically you have a small town man putting moves on the local sweety. A romance is brewing until one day a guy in a three-piece suit and a fedora shows up, recognizing this lowly gas station owner, played by Robert Mitchum.
Turns out Mitchum has a dirty secret and he leaves his idyllic little community in order to set things right.
What’s surprising to me about this film is that Mitchum isn’t a hard-boiled killer or even that much of a hardass. When he gets into fist fights he gets his ass beat a fair amount and I like that. I can’t say I have much experience in fisticuffs, but I’m pretty sure that most of the time it ain’t like in the movies where one dude takes some punches, but kicks him some ass like nothing happened. So, I like the added realism here.
And Mitchum goes out of his way to not kill anybody, which I didn’t expect. Even more surprising is they don’t really make a big deal out of it either. It’s not his Batman-like personal code that is explained to us, just a little something going on in the background.
We come to find out that he was hired by a real bastard of a guy (Kirk Douglas) to find his wife… who shot him and ran off with $40,000. He finds her in Mexico and finds out it’s Jane Greer. Naturally, he falls in love with her (don’t blame him) and they run off together.
Greer is the epitome of a femme fatale. She uses her feminine charms to manipulate all those around her and can make any man fall in love with her. The way director Jacques Tourneur shoots her and the way screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring structures her character you actually don’t think she’s a bad apple in the beginning, either, so you’re not forced to think ill of the lead. “I can see she’s bad news? Why can’t he?”
Plus, like I said… Jane Greer is hot. You don’t want to believe she’ll be a cruel and cold bitch. There’s a very young Judy Garland quality to her… maybe it’s the dark eyes.
Anyway, Douglas is fantastic as the heavy. He’s very young here, but still a man and a threat. In another great move, Douglas is also very likable as the character (Whit Sterling) and you can tell that it’s not all just a façade to fool people into thinking he’s a nice guy. The impression I got was that he’s very tough underneath and he is a bad man, but he doesn’t want to be. He wants to be liked, but also won’t stand for any disrespect.
Final Thoughts: This is a very strong film with great black and white cinematography thanks to Nicholas Musaraca, great direction from Tourneur and a fantastic cast working on all cylinders. It’s both a prime example of noir storytelling while also throwing some twists in the presentation. Like with any great noir as the film gets going the characters become more and more desperate, but it’s like a quicksand. The more they try to get out, the deeper and quicker they sink.