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Out of the Past

I've watched a hundred or so noir films since I set out to explore the genre in January 2018, and on my list I finally got to Out of the Past (Build My Gallows High in the U.K.). If I had a nickel for every time I read or heard that a particular 40s or 50s flick is the quintessential noir film, I'd have a big pile of coins. I'd read the same about this one, directed by Jacques Tourneur, thrilling audiences in 1947, and starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. In this case, though, the reviewer might actually be right. My favorite noir remains Kiss Me Deadly (1955), but Out of the Past is probably in my top twenty or even top ten. Why? Well, it's got everything we want from the genre, from quirky melodrama to dark labyrinth narratives, from the sense that things will end badly to off-kilter shots to claustrophobic cinematography. But in this one especially, it's the femme fatale (the gorgeous Greer) who takes the cake, bumping off each guy who gets in her way, with bewitching charm and style to boot. I won't bother summarizing the plot; it's complicated and would sound ridiculous boiled down to a few lines. Suffice it to say it holds the viewer's attention. And seeing murder by fishing lure is a good enough reason alone to watch it, not to mention you get to see Mitchum and Douglas share the screen, and Greer of course.


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