This gritty noir deserves to be remembered with such classics as Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but I've found many people today have never heard of this Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas thriller. Hopefully with its recent DVD release and inclusion in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 1, that will change.
I've seen a lot of noir in my time and this is at the top of my list. First there is Mitchum: a smooth, laid back, rough, handsome and excitingly dangerous actor who plays the relative good guy of the picture (in sharp contrast to his evil preacher in Night of the Hunter). He can raise any film in my eyes and I will always tape anything he's in on TMC. But he doesn't have to rise above this film, with a smart-talking script based on the Geoffrey Homes novel Build My Gallows High, an intricate and complex plot, a wicked femme fatale and more double crossing than cigarette smoking.
The movie opens with Mitchum as a gas attendant in a small town trying to out run his past (I mentioned this film before as a great double feature with A History of Violence, and recommend the combo once again). His past comes back to haunt him in the form of Douglas and Jane Greer, the dame he was once hired to follow and who ended up double crossing him. When telling his current girl about what happened she says, “She can't be all bad. No one is.” Mitchum responds, “Well, she comes the closest.”
It's just that kind of dialogue that made this film stay with me even years after seeing it for the first time. If you are a fan of noir, make this your next watch and add it to the list of classics from the genre. You won't be disappointed.