Out Of The Past Review

Out Of The Past
New York private eye Jeff is hired by gambler Whit to track down Kathie Moffett, who once shot and robbed him. Jeff tracks Kathie down, and they fall into an on-the-run affair that only disintegrates when he realises how rotten she really is.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

13 Nov 1947

Running Time:

97 minutes



Original Title:

Out Of The Past

“You're no good and neither am I,” coos fatale Greer to battered Mitchum, 'that's why we deserve each other.'  Based on Daniel Mainwaring's wonderfully titled novel Build My Gallows High (remade badly by Taylor Hackford as Against All Odds), this opens with Mitchum lying low and pumping gas in nowheresville, only for a chance customer to drag him back into a plot tangle he has to explain in flashback.

If you've ever wondered what critics meant by film noir, this 1947 thriller stands as a working definition.  It's all here: a crumpled 'tec in an immaculately grubby trenchcoat, a scheming woman whose lust for money and men never disturbs her immaculate coiffure, a smiling mobster villain (a young Douglas, literally leading with his chin), an intricate structure of flashbacks and intrigue and, most of all, a stylishly shadowed world of black and white lighting and murky motivations.

 During World War II, a famous military training film about VD was withdrawn when love-starved service audiences said they wouldn't mind getting VD if it meant a chance to score with the glamour girl in the movie.

This is more or less a remake of that picture, with the startlingly beautiful Greer - who doesn't overplay the Dragon Lady mannerisms as Stanwyck or Crawford would - ensnaring a succession of men.  As noirs go, it's surprisingly unclaustrophobic, as the plot goes from New York to San Francisco and Mexico to rural California, but that just emphases the trap the characters are in.  Directed with gothic flair by Jacques Tourneur.

Perfect example of the Noir genre replete with shadowy stylistic visuals and rotten but charming characters.
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