Drive a Crooked Road (1954) Richard Quine
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III DVD (1:23)
Eddie Shannon (Mickey Rooney) is both a great mechanic and race car driver, but he’s socially awkward around women and not much more at ease around men, especially the guys he works with at a Los Angeles garage. Eddie can’t believe it when a woman named Barbara (Dianne Foster) brings her car into the shop and asks specifically for him, even telling Eddie which beach she’ll be at later. When he finds Barbara at the beach, she’s with a good-looking guy named Steve (Kevin McCarthy in only his second credited film), a guy Barbara claims is only a friend. Something’s going on here….
It’s not too much of a spoiler to tell you that Barbara and Steve need Eddie’s skills for a little job they have in mind involving a getaway driver. The film should be a pretty routine crime noir, but it rises above expectations by presenting Eddie as a lonely guy who’s not stupid, but overcome by the need to impress Barbara and prove his skills as a driver. Eddie is outwardly insecure until he’s asked about cars, but Rooney is such a good actor that he never overplays Eddie’s passion and expertise. Neither does he stoop to the level of a duped lover. (Or is he duped?) Drive a Crooked Road is one of those films that’s better than it needs to be, a film with good performances, nice tension and a noir feel that simmers beneath the surface and an ending that doesn’t disappoint.
Next time: What if you could relive an entire year?
Photos: Film Noir of the Week, The Cinema Cafe, RareFilm