1001 Movies are history. I've watched them and spent time with them all, by writing about them.
Now...the real challenge begins.
I continue watching. I continue rating. I continue building my own list of 1000 films (because who needs that extra 1?)
Written By: Daniel Mainwaring, from his novel Build My Gallows High
Main Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda
Fleming, Paul Valentine
SEVEN SHADOWS WEEK: DAY 5
This is the only one of the “Seven Shadows” films that I had
seen prior to this week. The only thing I remember about the last time I
watched it was that I didn’t care for it. When finishing it this time around, I
had only one question for myself – “What’s not to like?”.
Jeff Bailey a.k.a. Jeff Markham (Mitchum) is the proprietor
of a small town gas station, where he makes enough to buy groceries. He’s in
love with town sweetheart Ann Miller and for the most part he leads a contented
life. That is, until Joe Stephanos (Valentine) rolls into town one afternoon
and informs Jeff that his boss, Whit Sterling (Douglas), would like to have a
word with Jeff. From there, we roll into our classic film noir flashback where
we learn that Jeff used to be a private detective. One evening, long ago, he
and his partner were called to meet wealthy gambler Whit Sterling. Sterling
informs the two that his girl, Kathie Moffat (Greer) put four bullets into him
and scrammed with $40,000. However, it’s the girl that Whit wants back, not
necessarily the dough. When Whit offers Jeff a healthy sum for finding her,
he’s on the case. Jeff travels to Mexico City and eventually to Acapulco, where
he finds Kathie. The only hitch is that he falls in love with her himself and
ultimately the two decide to flee to San Francisco and build a life for
themselves, away from Sterling. They’re tailed everywhere they go and soon
realize that their relationship will never be allowed to survive. It turns out
that Jeff’s old detective partner was hired by Whit to track down Jeff and
Kathie and when he finally finds them, Kathie puts holes in him and leaves him
for dead, splitting town and abandoning Jeff. We snap back to the present as
Jeff is being called to meet Whit again after years of being away.
Yeah, that’s all just the flashback and the flashback
doesn’t even take up the majority of the movie. They manage to cram even more
great stuff into these ninety minutes. Have you ever watched a film where the
performance of one actor/actress was enough to make you forget everything else
and embrace the film? That was my attitude toward this and actor Robert
Mitchum. He was just so good and I’m not ashamed to admit that over the course
of the movie I developed a very healthy man crush on him. He was just so damned
cool and he played both sides of the fence so well. At the beginning, he was
believable as this everyman type who liked to go fishing with his best girl and
who ran a gas station to make ends meet and then later, when he dons the fedora
and trench coat to become a hard ass gumshoe, he’s just perfect! On the other
hand, I didn’t like Jane Greer here. It’s nothing against her acting skills or
anything, I just thought she looked way too sweet and innocent to play a dirty
dame. I realize that she was always going to be the leading female, but in a
perfect world I would have switched her and Rhonda Fleming’s roles. Rhonda had
that look of a femme fatale who would stoop to new lows get the right
villainous reaction. She wasn’t quite as pretty as Greer though and maybe it
wouldn’t have been believable that Jeff would turn his life upside down for
her. The chemistry between Greer and Mitchum was right, I just didn’t like her
playing that character.
And hey, the confusion in this noir is kept to a minimum, as
the plot flows along very nicely and we’re not getting in over our heads trying
to keep characters and their motivations in order. Everything is kept fairly
simple and there aren’t any ridiculous sidetracks in the plot. Great
cinematography is also present. The particular shot that I included above, of
Jeff standing at the door to Sterling’s gated property says so much. It shows a
man who wants to be free, a man who tried to be free, preparing to delve back
into the underworld and become someone who he doesn’t necessarily want to
become. Also, I have to mention the dialogue, as it was also quite great.
Here’s just a taste of it and one of my favorite lines from the film:
Kathie: Love me?
Jeff: What’s that?
Just a great exchange between the two. Now I have to get
some dough of my own and pick up “Baby, I Don’t Care” by Lee Server and find
out more about Robert Mitchum.
RATING: 8/10 It
didn’t give me that “so good it’s a 10” feeling, but it is damn good! Fans of
the film and Mitchum might want to hop on over to YouTube and check out this video. It highlights Mitchum’s Saturday Night Live appearance in the 80s and
has a parody of “Out of the Past” called “Out of Gas” and also features Jane
Greer. Next up: “Gun Crazy”.