Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classic Movie Review: Out of the Past (by Dave Machado)

Staring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, Out of the Past is an excellent Film Noir about a Private Eye sent to track down a dame for a shady business man with unclear motives. We know that the woman in question (Jane Greer as Kathie Moffat) shot her lover (Kirk Douglas as Whit Sterling) and left him for dead, taking $40,000 with her. Unfortunately for her, Whit survives and now hires a detective (Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey) to track her down, though he insists he is not out for revenge, but simply wants her back. Bailey follows her trail down to Acapulco where they quickly fall for each other. What follows is a winding road of double crosses and setups that has each character trying their best to stay two steps ahead while also watching their back for bullet holes.

I decided to watch Out of the Past after seeing Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter. I had seen him previously in El Dorado but was not blown away by that movie (or his performance). It may have to do with the fact that after seeing (and loving) Rio Bravo, everything in the pseudo-remake lacked an emotional punch. But then I saw Night of the Hunter and was mesmerized by both the movie itself and Robert's performance as the villainous Harry Powell. I sorted through Mitchum's filmography to see what I would also enjoy and Out of the Past caught my eye. After reading that it co-starred Kirk Douglas, who I had become a fan of through classics such as Ace in the Hole and The Bad and the Beautiful, it instantly went to the top of my Netflix queue.  

I sometimes find it hard when watching older movies because some have become so ingrained in the popular conscious that I know all the beats before I even watch it. So I then sit through the movie knowing what comes next and when it's over, I really don't have a real appreciation for the movie because I'm viewing it years after other movies have stolen everything innovative about that movie and made them tired cliches. Out of the Past, released in 1947, has a lot of the stereotypes found in Film Noirs and the thrillers of today but because the actors are so powerful and the film itself has the hazy, dreamy vibe found in most Film Noirs of the 1940s, I was still highly impressed with the film as the credits rolled. As is the case with most movies from that time period, the dialog has a fabulous zing to it and is filled with wonderful one-liners and double entendres that seem to be lacking today. I recommend this movie not just to fans of other Film Noirs such as Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon, but to any film fan looking for a classic film they have yet to see. 

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