Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Chase (1946)

Dir: Arthur Ripley

This starts off as a routine enough crime thriller with Chuck Scott (Bob Cummings) finding a wallet on a busy street. He checks the wallet and sees a lot of cash inside. He's broke and unemployed and decides to treat himself to a big breakfast. At this point he feels a little guilty and decides to return the wallet and the rest of the dough to it's rightful owner. This path leads him to a shady character named Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran) and his nefarious henchman Gino (played by the great Peter Lorre!). Roman is so taken back by Scott's honesty that he hires him as his new driver. Now Scott meets Roman's depressed wife Lorna (Michele Morgan) and the noir part of the story really kicks in. Lorna convinces Scott to help her flee to Cuba and the two fall in love but Gino and Roman are onto them. At this point I would like to let you know that I would consider the rest of this a *spoiler alert* even though I'll try not to give too much away. At this point in the story, the second act, we see the two love birds in Cuba trying to escape to South America. Of course things go wrong and Scott is framed for murder. He tries to clear his name but ends up going on the run from the law. Then at the beginning of the third act, the story takes us back in time to fill us in on what was happening during the second act, but from different perspectives, all very clever and forward thinking with it's attempt at non-linear narrative. But what really makes the film jarring is the fact that the movie has a completely different ending for the third act then it did for the second! At the time of watching it I admit to being utterly confused, but after meditating on the piece, I have to applaud it for being a completely original Film Noir. The easiest interpretation would be to dismiss part of it as a dream sequence, but there's no way to tell which part would be the dream. The film's made better by the fact that it is left open to the viewer's own interpretation. It's based on the Cornell Woolrich story "The Black Path of Fear" which I have yet to rad but am certainly curious as to how the two relate to each other.
This is part of a Noir double feature, along with Kiss Me Dead, released from VCI a few years ago. The original production company for the movie is "Nero Films" and the surviving print isn't in the greatest shape but certainly watchable. The man in charge of the restoration also provides audio commentary and I tried listening to it to hear if there was any production history given, but I had a hard time sludging through it as the man came across as painfully nervous. I'll get through it eventually but that night wasn't the night.


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