14 October 2011 | jzappa
A Bizarre Spin on the Noir Canon
This peculiar excursion is skillfully shot by Nick Musuraca in the dark black and white nature of the genre in its era, and is capably helmed by John Farrow, who fruitfully captures these delirious visions. It's by and large a character study of an accomplished man blinded by lust, whose life disintegrates as it falls behind him. Mitchum is the guiltless man who is entrapped, but doesn't understand he's innocent until quite late. Too late? Only the will to live in spite of being so far out of his comfort zone and his senses can save him from this interesting spin on the framed-for-murder predisposition of the formula.
Mitchum, as was his modus operandi, once again put on airs of sleepy-eyed detachment and barrel-chested reserve, but in this case, he is interesting and sympathetic, realistically showing how a smart guy and such an experienced doctor could be in such a weak position. He genuinely and believably connects to the emotional and sensory reality of his bewildered character, whose feelings and senses are constantly in flux. Likewise, director John Farrow effectively taps the outlandish, hallucinatory traits in this customary noir plot: Mitchum spends the last half of the film barreling down the dirt roads of southern California with a concussion, fainting cyclically and awakening enclosed by some of the murkiest landscape the U.S. has to present.
Yes, Mitchum is cast against type as a stable professional, but actually, I think Faith Domergue is equally if not more accountable for the lack of artifice in Mitchum's performance than he is. From moment to moment, and this is most definitely a movie that lives in the present, she genuinely affects him. They're not just saying lines at one another, overlapping their words and movements with some programmed, bottled manner. The sultry, manic, hard-bitten, shifty-eyed edge is real. What's more, Claude Rains as always is superb, in a small role but a pretty important one, where his every motion looks to be controlled over a maniacal wrath all set to gush out, best illustrated by his malicious grin while meeting his wife's lover. And the film's a pleasingly bizarre screwball streak further sets it apart as a unique entry in the film noir canon.