30 June 2007 | sorterdave
The original title was "Gun Crazy" and it was released in 1949
I have long been a fan of Film Noir. I consider this film to be unique and one of the best. The first and only time I saw it in a theater was in 1949 when I was 14. It was titled "Gun Crazy". I thought it was great but it didn't receive rave reviews or last long in hometown theaters. I understand they renamed it "Deadly Is The Female" in 1950 for its release in England, reason being that co-star Peggy Cummins was British and emphasizing the female star would be better box-office.
In the years that passed I wanted to see it again but it didn't appear on TV or later on any videotape that I knew of. In the 1983 Richard Geer film "Breathless" there is a chase scene where he is trying to escape by way of the stage behind a movie screen. On that screen was playing what I immediately recognized as "Gun Crazy". Over the years since then I have continued to look for the movie but was unable to find it. Less than a month ago I found it on DVD and purchased an excellent copy. I found that the movie is just as good as I remember it.
The film is essentially a story of a boy named Bart Tare (Russ Tamblyn) who loves guns for sport but refuses to harm any living being with them. After stealing one from a local store, he is caught and sent to a reformatory. The story continues four reformatory years plus one army hitch later when an adult Bart (John Dall) is discharged. He and some friends go to a cheap carnival where he sees and immediately falls for a trick shot artist, Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins). He beats her in a shooting contest but is offered a job in the act rather than the prize he was supposed to win.
Bart is unaware of her dark past, which includes hints of prostitution and the murder of a man in St. Louis. After a showdown with the jealous carnival owner they run off together and get married. When their money runs out, Bart wants to get a job but Annie Laurie's mind runs in a different direction, armed robbery. Reluctantly, Bart gives in and they set off on a spree of low paying stickups. By this time, Bart is increasingly aware that Annie Laurie has homicidal tendencies that he is barely able to keep under control. They plan a big-time robbery during which she kills two people without his knowledge. The rest of the movie deals with their flight from justice and ultimate payment for their crimes. In all, it is a classic scenario of "Bad Girl" leads a "Good Boy" into evil.
Personal opinion is that John Dall did a better acting job in this movie than he did in "Rope". In a bit of self-analysis I must admit that I have long been fascinated by "Wicked Women". This movie alone placed Peggy Cummins among my favorite "femme fatales", which included the queen of mean, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Beverly Michaels and other notables.
If you like classic film noir, it is a good movie to remember and see again.