20 faves #17: prince, dirty mind
today i am 65 years old

gun crazy (joseph h. lewis, 1950)

Nowadays, we can't help but recognize similarities to the real-life story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, but this noir doesn't actually remind me much of the later classic film. Joseph H. Lewis makes good use of his limited budget, culminating in a single-take getaway from a bank robbery that is a marvel of low-cost invention. The IMDB has some great trivia about Gun Crazy, including this:

The 17-page bank robbery sequence was scheduled for a three-to-five-day shoot with numerous camera set-ups, but Joseph H. Lewis decided he didn't want to do it the conventional way. He told the producers he could pull it off in a single day with one shot that never entered the bank. Since that would cut down on production time and eliminate the need for a bank set, the idea appealed to their budget consciousness, but he still had to prove to them it was possible. So he did a test run with extras using his own 16mm camera. 

There is nothing particularly unique about Gun Crazy, just another low-budget noir with a femme fatale and a sucker of a man. But the leads, Peggy Cummins (Curse of the Demon) and John Dall (Rope) are so good they lift the film a level or two. (There is a full 12 inches between the 5'1" Cummins and the 6'1" Dall, which somehow makes her ability to control him even more impressive.) Combined with the solid job by Lewis (aided by a script by Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted at the time), you have a movie that approaches the level of Detour. It doesn't have that film's evil meanness ... the two robbers, Annie Laurie Starr and Bart Tare, really do seem to care for each other. But Bart loves guns without quite knowing why, while Annie is pretty much a psycho, just as good with a gun but also with a taste for killing. And their attraction to each other goes beyond their shared love of guns. Another IMDB anecdote:

In an interview with author Danny Peary (1981), director Joseph H. Lewis described how he instructed lead actors John Dall and Peggy Cummins: "I told John, 'Your cock's never been so hard,' and I told Peggy, 'You're a female dog in heat, and you want him. But don't let him have it in a hurry. Keep him waiting.' That's exactly how I talked to them and I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions."

That's a pretty accurate description of how it plays on the screen. #701 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.

[Letterboxd list of the top movies of 1950.]



Interesting stuff. Just for the fact of not seeing the heist it reminds of Reservoir Dogs.

Steven Rubio

Hadn't thought of that, but you're right. As I noted, the decision to show everything from the back seat of the car was based partly on ingenuity, but also on money (or lack of same).

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