Sunday 10 March 2013

Born to Kill [1947]

Robert Wise, known mostly for his crowd-pleasers, made a few films that deviated from conventional studio rules, including a few gritty noirs. Two years before he directed the taut and gritty The Set-Up, perhaps his finest moment under the sun, he made this muscular B-noir – a caustic tale of malevolence and misanthropy, even if an average film at best. Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney), a small-time nobody with psychotic disposition, ends up killing his former girlfriend and her boyfriend in a fit of rage; Helen Brent (Claire Trevor), a divorcee, ends up accidentally discovering the bodies but keeps quiet to avoid trouble. The two end up meeting while on their way to San Francisco, and even having a dangerous liaison on the sly – this, when she rejects his overtures because she is engaged to a rich young man, upon which he marries the beautiful and rich foster-sister of Helen (Audrey Long). Rarely has a movie contained so much vitriol against niceties and had protagonists who are so despicable; in fact, by the time the film ends, the cynical, gold-digging Helen appeared like a saint when compared to Sam, a volatile and irrepressible embodiment of evil. The narrative, unfortunately, was flat as a pancake, and neither did the characters nor the theme comprised of any complexities that would have added layers or dimensions to either the proceedings or the protagonists. The acting, too, was mediocre, though Tierney did manage to look like a mean and menacing son of a gun. Elisha Cook Jr., however, was quite chilling as Sam’s sleazy buddy, and even added a streak of homoeroticism in this otherwise straightforward film.

Director: Robert Wise
Genre: Crime Drama/Film Noir
Language: English
Country: US

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