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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

OUT OF THE PAST (1947)


This top-tier "noir" looks better each year, resisting the camp accretions so common to the genre. Even with twice the character load of a typical noir (e.g. GILDA/’46 or DOUBLE INDEMNITY/’44), the story twists make sense thanks to a clearheaded script and the way helmer Jacques Tourneur holds to the narrative line. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as a missing moll, an impressionable dick and the mob. Nicholas Musuraca all but invented that moody noir look, so the stylish studio lensing is a given, but his location work is equally fine. And the classic cast all give classics perfs. As the hard-shelled detective, Robert Mitchum is a monument to noir fatalism, while the lesser known Jane Greer’s femme fatale is unusually subtle for the genre. (She’d be better known if Howard Hughes hadn’t sabotaged her career). Kirk Douglas, still in his pleasing early intellectual mode, is ultra-smooth as a smiling gangster trying to find the elusive Ms. Greer. This was long before he started trying too hard. And there’s an intensely empathetic turn from former child-actor Dickie Moore in his first post-teen role. Just great.

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