Out of the Past (1947) Jacques Tourneur (4x)
Warner DVD, Blu-ray
We may be done with the past, but the past is never done with us. Robert Mitchum plays Jeff, a man trying to escape his shady past and settle down in a small rural community with a good woman (Virginia Huston, above left), but former big city boss Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) has other plans for him. First, find Whit’s girl Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer, below right), who shot him and stole $40,000 from him.
That’s the bare-bones summation of the film, but its richness and wonders are many, including a stellar cast, the brilliant directing by Tourneur, and the truly spectacular cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca. And did I mention the wonderful Roy Webb score? If you haven’t seen it, stop everything and find a copy, sit down and luxuriate in film noir heaven.
This marks the fourth time I’ve seen the film, three of those times coming in the last two years. There’s a sense of not being able to escape your past that probably didn’t mean much to me the first time I saw the film, since I was in my 20s and didn’t have much of a past. Yet now, thinking about the sins/mistakes/indiscretions of my life, and pondering how such things might come back to haunt me as they did Jeff, each viewing becomes much more personal.
Out of the Past is recognized as one of the great film noir movies and contains one of noir’s most gut-wrenching final scenes. The performances are excellent and Jane Greer is one of the most stunning of all femmes fatale. There’s so much more to say about this film, but I’m going to let you discover it for yourself. (Out of the Past was also the first movie in our library’s “Film Noir Theatre” series in 2014.)
Photos: IMP Awards, Movie Title Stills Collection, Toronto Film Society, Keeping it Reel, Vanishing Point Chronicles