Hard-as-nails film noir finds quickie divorcée Claire Trevor (unusually glam) skipping out of Reno in spite of discovering a double-murder at her B&B. Reporting it would inconvenience her upcoming loveless marriage into San Fran society. But excitement (and danger) follows on the train back when she’s picked up by tough guy Lawrence Tierney whom we know as the hot-tempered psycho thug who killed that Reno couple. Trevor, as yet unaware, figures to play this studly wild card on the side while keeping up her staid engagement, but then is unable to stop her rich foster sister from marrying the guy. Worse, Tierney’s slightly more levelheaded partner in crime (Elisha Cook Jr, natch) shows up, trailed by Walter Slezak’s private dick who’s closing in, but willing to be bribed . . . by just about anyone. Some of this grows too thickly far-fetched for viewing comfort, but helmer Robert Wise (smoothly rising @ RKO into B+ pics) elides many of the more risible story bumps while working extremes he'd rarely try again, and letting lenser Robert De Grasse indulge his visually black-hearted inner soul. It’s all ridiculously entertaining with Trevor giving a masterclass in sexually self-destructive rationalization.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: Blunt & brusque, Tierney’s romantic bruiser of a screen presence really pushed the envelope for Hollywood leading men. This film shows the peculiar macho anti-charm with a clear-eyed insight that kept his career at or near perpetual implosion, just the thing that caught Quentin Tarantino’s eye when casting RESERVOIR DOGS/’92.