Thursday, 24 July 2014

Gun Crazy [1950]

The classic template of delinquent lovers on a crime spree and on the lam, used in Bonnie & Clyde, Badlands, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers, and adored by Nouvelle Vague exponents, had their genesis in the excellent B-noir Gun Crazy. Daring, frenetic, pulpy, doom-laden and filled with stylistic flourishes, the film touched on social themes and subtexts – post-War disillusion and social taboos in particular – through a deliriously fun ride. Bart (John Dall) has had a fascination with guns since a young age, and becomes a crack-shot through  his stints in a reform school and the army; Annie (Peggy Cummins) shows shooting skills as part of a traveling carnival, and her lethal beauty masks a dangerous inclination towards violence. These two natural born social outsiders, on account of their aberrant obsessions, hit it off like a house on fire as soon as they meet. He leaves his staid life and she quits on her vile manager who she’s been a mistress to, and together they hit the road. They commit small thefts to start with, and soon, on Annie’s pursuance despite Bart’s growing guilty conscience, graduate to robberies. However, the mythical final job – holding off of a payroll office – proves a crime too many. The final scene, where they retreat to the mountains to escape from the police, albeit in futility, is bound to remind one of High Sierra. The film boasted of great B/W photography and camera work which would be taken to dizzying heights by Lewis in The Big Combo; the real-time capture of the final heist, with the camera placed like a silent observer behind the lovers’ backs during their car escape, made this sly examination of sex and violence a visual treat.

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Genre: Crime Thriller/Film Noir
Language: English
Country: US


Alex DeLarge said...

Hey Shubajit! Another great review and one of my favorite noirs! There's a very nice Blu-ray available in France but to import it to US is a bit expensive: I think it's about 64 euros! But if any film is worth it this one is. I haven't been very active writing/posting lately but have never stopped watching films. I just started my 4th blog, this one focused on Criterion releases: links to all my blogs are on the Korova main page. Thanks for the link too in your blogroll:-)

As always, keep up the great work. I'll stop by more often and say some kind words. Take care, your friend Alex.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Alex for stopping by and the appreciation. Its been a long time since we interacted, and so it feels great to be doing so. Yes, Gun Crazy is right up there with the best of classic noirs - and its excellent visual design does make that Blu-Ray an absolutely worthwhile procurement. Great to hear about your prolific tryst with blogs - I shall visit your latest one on Criterion releases for sure.

Sam Juliano said...

I saw this just weeks ago at the Film Forum, and came out with yet another fabulous regard for this great noir classic. It is absolutely a template for all those other films you mention, and it is brilliantly shot. Love that final scene in the swamp. Absolutely fantastic review!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam. This is indeed a fabulous noir, and that makes me wonder as to how I hadn't watched it all this time despite being an aficionado of classic film noirs! Yes, the final scene was really good, as were those scenes with the 2 protagonists being followed in their car.