Robert Mitchum as a young doctor who catches a heavy shot of l’amour fou for suicidal housewife Faith Domergue; before he knows it, her husband, Claude Rains, is wearing a cast-iron poker and they’re making a run for the Mexican border. Director John Farrow nicely hits the nightmarish, hallucinatory qualities in this standard film noir plot: Mitchum spends the last half of the film barreling down the dirt roads of southern California with a brain concussion, passing out periodically and waking up surrounded by some of the bleakest scenery America has to offer. Nothing special for the genre, but a solid, terse piece of work from a filmmaker elsewhere given to preachiness. With Maureen O’Sullivan; photographed by Nick Musuraca (1950).
An audacious, skillful film noir (1978) by Walter Hill, so highly stylized that it’s guaranteed to alienate 90 percent of its audience. There’s no realism, no psychology, and very little plot in Hill’s story of a deadly game between a professional getaway driver (Ryan O’Neal) and a detective obsessed with catching him (Bruce Dern). There is, however, a great deal of technically sophisticated and very imaginative filmmaking. The cross-references here are Howard Hawks, Robert Bresson, and Jean-Pierre Melville: a strange, heady, and quite effective range of influences. With Isabelle Adjani, Ronee Blakley, and Matt Clark. 90 min.
A major film (1956) by Allan Dwan, who, after Raoul Walsh, was the most expressively kinetic director in American film. The plot is a complicated affair borrowed from the James M. Cain novel Love’s Lovely Counterfeit: a high-ranking mobster is assigned to get some dirt on a reform candidate for mayor but ends up falling in love with the politician’s secretary—which touches off a series of power plays for control of both the city and the syndicate. It’s also that rare item, the color noir, photographed by the great John Alton. With John Payne (who became a first-rate noir performer after shucking his drippy musical-comedy image at Fox), Arlene Dahl, Rhonda Fleming, and lots of other 50s icons.