Friday, October 08, 2010

Two film noirs: Born to Kill and Out of the Past

The great film noir series of the Finnish Broadcasting Association has allowed me to see films I'd never seen before and revisit some of the old favourites. Robert Wise's Born to Kill (1947) was one of the former and Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947; both from the same year!) represents the latter group of films. I enjoyed both, but Born to Kill was somewhat of a disappointment.

Wise's film has a cult reputation as being one of the most hardboiled and hard-hitting films of the late fourties. It stars the great late Lawrence Tierney who looks as mean as it gets. And here's the problem with the film: Tierney is just too bad and mean and mean-looking and I find it very hard to believe those women would fall for him. Well, of course the leading lady, played by Claire Trevor, would fall for him, as she is a sociopath by nature, but Tierney's psychopathic stare would scare away all the other ladies, especially Trevor's kid sister with whom Tierney gets married. Very nice battle scenes in the film, though. Tierney sure knew how to throw a punch.

Born to Kill is based on James Gunn's novel Deadlier Than the Male. I have the book, but haven't read it. I'd really like to hear comments on it, if there's anyone reading this who's read the book.

Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past is one of the classics of the film noir genre, and it should be: the balance between the bitter hardboiled tone and the soft fatalistic romance is deftly handled. Robert Mitchum is great as the fall guy who doesn't much want to get out. And Jane Greer - man, I wouldn't want to get out the set-up either. The dialogue is full of clever one-liners and witty banter.

But the plot? Could someone please tell me what happened in the film? I've seen the film at least four times and I've read Geoffrey Homes's novel the film is based on (albeit in the late eighties, and only once), so I think I should know. But I'm not sure I do.

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