13 March 2009 | ZenVortex
Surprisingly Good Early Film Noir
This interesting and surprisingly effective 1941 movie was one of the first films noir. Partly directed by Fritz Lang -- who quit after a few weeks due to a conflict with Jean Gabin, who was romancing Lang's ex-girlfriend Marlene Dietrich -- and featuring an international cast with creative input by Salvador Dali (!), the movie is a seminal work that helped establish some of the stylistic elements of classic film noir.
The lovely 28 year-old British actress Ida Lupino delivers a convincing performance as a suicidal teenage runaway, aimlessly passing through a Californian fishing village on her journey to nowhere.
French actor Jean Gabin exudes charm and star quality as a womanizing drifter with an insane capacity for hard liquor, who gets into drunken fights that he doesn't remember.
Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell round out the main characters with solid performances as Gabin's drinking buddies -- Rains as a failed British intellectual and Mitchell as a scheming Irish villain who is blackmailing Gabin.
Dali's contribution to the movie is a startling scene where the drunken Gabin is conversing with a pretty prostitute whose head suddenly vanishes into thin air -- transforming her into a talking torso with surrealist images of spinning clocks.
The direction is generally good. The cinematography is classic noir, especially the final scenes, which deliver an abundance of dark, haunting images as Gabin menacingly pursues Mitchell along the pier to his death. The Fox Film Noir DVD consists of a flawless high-quality print plus special features.