26 September 2015 | AlsExGal
For some reason I can watch this film over and over...
... and not get tired of it. Ray Milland's performance is riveting and, if you are watching for the first time, the first scene will do nothing but raise questions, getting you involved. How did Don (Ray Milland) get to be such an alcoholic? Why does his brother have a right to say how he lives? What does he do for a living? Why does such a seemingly together woman like Helen (Jane Wyman) stay with this guy for three years? All of these questions get answered slowly as the movie unravels over one long weekend that Don was supposed to spend in the country with his brother, but instead spends alone, but thanks to ten dollars that Don's brother left behind, he does not spend it completely alone - he's got money to buy booze.
And yet Don doesn't plan ahead. He thinks enough to cover up the two bottles he buys at the liquor store with some apples that he buys to put up on top of the bag as he walks home so neighbors cannot see the booze, but the urgency doesn't come until he is completely out of liquor and out of the ten bucks to get more. And he is willing to do ANYTHING to get that liquor - he'll pretend to be interested in a girl in a local bar who is obviously crazy about him in order to get a few bucks, he tries to trade his typewriter (he's a failed writer) to a local bar owner for a drink, he steals money from a woman's purse in a nightclub to get booze, he even stages a faux hold-up (he has no gun) to get a bottle from a liquor store.
And that's it for the entire movie - Don Birnham and his quest for the next bottle eats all of his time and energy. Other characters are just instruments in that quest or are in the form of flashbacks to tell you how Don got to where he was in the first scene. And then there's that haunting score that runs the length of the film. Everything is brutal realism UNTIL the last scene. Maybe it was the censors, but today it could have cost the film some Oscars.
A couple of questions never raised. How did Don's brother Wick manage to support himself AND Don all of these years IN New York City? Didn't Wick ever long for a life and family of his own? There's got to be a limit to anybody's patience and charity, even if they are kin. Another question from an old film buff like me - Isn't it odd how the Great Depression and World War II magically disappear from sight in the past that Don is recollecting. 15 years of American history that effected everybody seems to have no place in Don's story. To look at this film, this shiny bustling post-war world has always been there. This is the turn of film from Depression and world war - collective struggles - back to the struggle of the individual with himself, the beginning of noir.