From Dangerous Depths

Out of the Past, written by Geoffrey Homes, Frank Fenton and James M. Cain, based on Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes, directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Robert Mitchum (Jeff Bailey), Jane Greer (Kathie Moffat), Kirk Douglas (Whit Sterling), Rhonda Carson (Meta Carson) and Virginia Huston (Ann Miller) (1947): Classic post-WWII film noir about a shady private detective (Mitchum) trying to escape his shady past, only to be hunted down by gangster Douglas and forced back into more shady doings.

Jeff Bailey, the assumed name of the former Jeff Markham, runs a gas station in a small town not far from Lake Tahoe. Spotted by the lieutenant of a gangster he once worked for, Bailey gets pulled back into the competing schemes and treacheries of the gangster and the femme fatale who Bailey once loved but was ultimately betrayed and manipulated by.

Mitchum is terrific, as is the moody direction by B-movie maestro Jacques Tourneur (Cat People). Tourneur and his cinematographer set up a lovely contrast among the dark and dead-end streets of the cities; the rundown, sunny seediness of Acapulco; and the wide-open spaces around the small town Mitchum’s character hides in. The urban world is Hell, but the people from Hell also carry Hell with them.

Douglas, in his second film here, makes for a jittery mob boss, while Jane Greer makes a great bad woman — as in many films noir, the woman is ultimately deadlier (and smarter) than the male. And in this film world, as in a lot of noir, the past is something that always gets you in the end. Highly recommended.

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