Out of the Past

Robert Mitchum is an actor that I have not really explored. I have yet to watch Night of the Hunter (a gem stuck somewhere in the middle of my Netflix queue) or really dive into his western work and I don’t think I have seen him in anything else other than the film I am talking about. Known for his nonchalance and his angular figure, he is perfect actor for film noir and looking at his list of films he has made quite a few. I stumbled onto this film after reading a line from the film in a quote contest. (it was film noir themed!) I’m glad I did.

While not my favorite film noir, this film seems to hit all of the noirish elements with the bang of a gong. Double crossing, femme fatales, backwards storytelling, deep shadows, and a detective, I loved going on the ride and losing myself in Robert Mitchum’s performance as a man trying to run away from his past. In his past, he was a two-bit detective who got an assignment to find a lost dame in Mexico from a very powerful bookie. He finds this dame and abandons the mission in order to be with her. They run and run until they get caught. In the middle of the catch, the dame who claims to be sweeter than she is kills a man and he leaves to start a new life as some else and she goes back to her bookie. Found in a small town working a gas station, he is thrown back into the underworld he so desperately wants to forget. I told you it was a film noir.

Robert Mitchum is hot. He commands every scene that he is with his deary voice and puppy dog eyes. He seduces his dame with just one turn of the phrase, but I do not judge because I would have fallen for it too. He gives off this air of indifference, but he has strong morals that bubble up every once in a while. He burns for solitude, for not killing in order to get what he needs or doing anything dishonestly. But those dames they always be screwing things up for the hard working men. Boy does this dame screw things up for him. She claims to not have stolen her bookie boyfriend’s forty grand but just shot him to escape his influence unharmed. He falls for it. She claims that he does not love her bookie boyfriend and in fact loves him instead, but all she wants is him to not follow her anymore. She wants to cover up all the murders she commits and get everything out of every man she comes into contact with, but she just cannot win no matter how smoldering she is. Every time Robert’s character catches her, she seems to slip through until the fatal ending. The woman who played this awful dame, Jane Greer, didn’t have much of a career and it is a shame. She could have been more femme fatales.

There is one major plot point and character I had trouble with, however. The character was the bookie, played by Kirk Douglas and the plot point would be him believing anything that Jane Greer would say. He is supposed to be this savvy business man who is willing to pay money and pull cons in order to get what he wants. He lost this woman, forty grand (a sum that had more significance in the forties than today), and his health when she left and yet he believes her when she tells lies about Robert’s character and tells him someone is dead when she doesn’t know if he is or not. Kirk goes through the film like a limp noodle when he is supposed to be just  as threatening as Jane’s character to Robert. Hell Kirk’s character tried to kill, frame, and steal from Robert’s character several times throughout the film and yet he does nothing but sit there and smile in his polished suit. It is hard to imagine him to go on to be in such iconic films and be a major player in Hollywood.

For the most part I really liked this film. I enjoyed the interactions with the deaf boy and the dichotomy between the good girl in the small town and the evil woman in the big city. It does have its problems and the progression from point A to C is a little unneeded convoluted. I would watch this film again for Robert’s performance alone.

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