Out of the Past (1947) Poster

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10/10
A desert island movie
imogensara_smith21 March 2007
How do I love it? Let me count the ways...First, like a few perfect jazz albums, OUT OF THE PAST has a distinctive, coherent sound developed through various moods and tempos and melodies. Robert Mitchum is the lead soloist who dominates the score; the sound of the film is his sound, cool and weary and knowing. Though he doesn't sing in this one, no performance better demonstrates Mitchum's musicality, his sense of rhythm, pace and inflection. He referred to his dialogue as "the lyrics," and treated it that way, delivering his lines behind the beat, the way Sinatra sings. Jane Greer contributes her gorgeous dry contralto and Kirk Douglas adds a light, sneering counterpoint to an inspired group improvisation on the theme of disillusionment.

Mitchum is Jeff Markham, alias Jeff Bailey, an ex-private eye who made a big mistake by falling for Kathie (Jane Greer), the gangster's mistress he was hired to track down. Splitting up after he discovers she's a liar and a killer, he hides out in a small town, taking up with a nice girl named Ann, knowing it's just a matter of time before the past catches up with him. His narration and dialogue carry the film along on a laid-back high, like a series of perfect smoke rings. He sums up his philosophy of life in a casino when Kathie asks, "Is there a way to win?" and he answers, "There's a way to lose more slowly." When she says she's sorry the man she shot didn't die, he murmurs dreamily, "Give him time." His enveloping pessimism is strangely elated; Jeff knows the score and savors it like some private hipster knowledge. "She can't be all bad. No one is," Jeff's nice girlfriend says of Kathie, but he returns, "She comes closest."

Kathie Moffat is the greatest of all femmes fatales, because she's the least caricatured. She's not a scheming black widow, just a totally selfish, cowardly woman who feels no remorse for anything she does, and who happens to be beautiful and alluring enough that we can believe any man, even a smart and tough one, would fall for her. Jeff and Kathie's romance is genuinely rhapsodic, nothing like the usual mating of temptress and chump; they're both so sexy and smart and wised-up, always getting the joke together. The disillusionment wouldn't be so compelling if the illusion weren't so lovely. When Kathie shoots Jeff's partner, Mitchum—in a reaction shot lasting all of two seconds—shows Jeff realizing, and instantaneously coming to terms with, the fact that the best thing that ever happened to him is also the worst thing that ever happened to him. He looks simultaneously shocked to the core, and as though he'd expected it all along.

Jeff Bailey is a paradox: you'd think nobody could put anything over on this guy, yet he acts like a sucker; he exemplifies both cynical pride and romantic blindness. Does he know what he's getting into and deliberately delude himself? Is he drawn to Kathie because she can rouse him from his torpor of indifference, because he can only really care about his life when he's in danger of losing it? You're never sure, but Mitchum knows how to hold your interest without explaining himself. His essential "Mitchumness" lies in hidden depths, those hints of melancholy, amusement and cold violence that seep through his impassive surface, the suggestions of menace and compassion and old wounds. He gives the movie a core of mystery that's eternally captivating. Like great American popular music, it's sublime hokum, so well-crafted that it stays eternally fresh and means more to you the more you hear it.

Here is a world in which every throwaway gesture—ordering a cup of coffee, checking a briefcase—has drop-dead style, every word spoken is a wisecrack or a line of pulp poetry. Even minor characters and incidental scenes are rich and unforgettable: Theresa Harris as Eunice the maid in her fabulous Billie Holiday hat in the Harlem nightclub; the check-room clerk at the bus station, witness to who knows how many noir entanglements, with his hollow-man motto: "I always say everyone's right"; Joe Stefanos's black overcoat appearing like an ink-spot in the clean white town; the signs the mute Kid flashes to Jeff by the glittering lake, as the sky clouds over…

The movie floats from place to place, blending real landscapes and studio sets, expressionistic stairwells and Ansel Adams mountains. The episodes run together fluid and compulsive as a dream. Sometimes there's nothing but music and movement: Jeff prowling cat-like around Meta Carson's apartment while boogie-woogie piano plays in the next room. The cinematography is distractingly gorgeous, drifting into glistening abstract patterns of black and white, like the web of bare tree-branches projected onto the bodies of Jeff and Ann at their last meeting. A seamless blend of romance and cynicism, drama and humor, OUT OF THE PAST is not only a perfect Hollywood studio product, it's a definitive movie experience. It's supersaturated, yet it never feels overworked, never tries too hard. It just seems to happen, almost by casual serendipity; the wit and elegance and glamour are so unforced and alive. You succumb to it instantly and helplessly as Jeff succumbs to Kathie's magic. The spell breaks for him, but not for us. Disenchantment may be the theme of OUT OF THE PAST, but the movie itself is a source of perennial wonder.
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10/10
Scheming dame
jotix10020 January 2005
Jacques Tourneur will probably be remembered best for this film, even though he had an extensive career in Hollywood. Working with Daniel Mainwaring, the author of the novel in which this movie is based, he created one of the best pictures of this genre, one that will be a perennial favorite. Mr. Tourneur and his cinematographer, the brilliant Nicholas Musuraca, made a stunning looking film that looks as good today, as when it was originally released.

If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading now.

Jeff Bailey has reinvented himself as the owner of a gas station in California. His past comes to haunt him at the beginning of the movie. Jeff has found peace and love in the small town where he has taken refuge. He can change his identity, but he can't hide from the people that want to see him dead.

We watch in the beginning how Jeff is sent away by Whit Sterling to look for the disappearing Kathie Moffat, who has stolen forty thousand dollars and gone hiding. Jeff finds her in Acapulco. Kathie gives a bad name to any other dames in the movies of this genre. She is totally ruthless; she will do anything to double cross Whit as well as have Jeff do whatever she wants.

Comparisons have been made between "The Maltese Falcon" and "Out of the Past". Both have plots that are twisted; when we feel we know everything, there is a new twist to the story. We are constantly misled into thinking one way, when in reality, something else has happened.

This is a film that combines all the elements of the classic film noir and juxtaposes it against the serene surroundings of where Jeff is now living. Black and white photography was used to great advantage in the movie. It has a style that makes it one of a kind. The music by Roy Webb plays neatly in the background without interrupting the action.

The acting is first rate. Mr. Tourneur got a brilliant performance from Robert Mitchum. His Jeff, is the epitome of coolness. It's hard to understand the mentality of American cinema of the times not paying Mr. Mitchum his due. He was a much better actor than he was given credit for. His presence looms large in this movie and it's a tribute to him that he makes his character dominate the movie.

Jane Greer was also excellent in her take of Kathie Moffat. She is pure evil, a sensuous woman who will do anything to get her own way. When we see her in Acapulco she is a seductress that no man can resist. She leads Jeff on by the sheer power of the desire he feels for her. Ms. Greer was not a beauty, by Hollywood standard, but yet, she makes an incredible contribution to the movie. Her textured performance is exquisite in its economy. We all see right through her, yet, she takes us for an incredible ride, up to the end of the picture.

The others in the cast do an excellent job. A young and dashing Kirk Douglas is perfect as the dubious Whit. He shows such a magnetism, even then, at the start of his career in movies. Rhonda Fleming had a small role and she makes most of it. Also Virginia Huston, as Ann, makes a great contribution to the film.

The film, ultimately, is a tribute to the talent of the director. This is Mr. Tourneur's best movie.
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10/10
Beloved film classic should be seen by more people
funkyfry28 October 2002
Terrific exotic adventure/melodrama with gothic undertones. Douglas follows Mitchum following Greer to Mexico; murder and robbery follow everywhere femme fatale Greer goes. She's excellent; vulnerable eyes revealing the fear motivating her totally irrational, greedy actions. She and Mitchum are made for each other (it's a shame that this and the less exciting "The Big Steal" are their only films together as far as I know, although Greer did make a good pairing with the comparably skilled Richard Widmark in "Run for the Sun"). Every step of their twisted journey feels inevitable, painful, and joyous, like a death-row inmate smoking his last cigarette. Mitchum is at his best here as the patsy for Greer and Doublas' schemes, who plays along as if he knows better but is truly seeking absolution from death.

One of the best films ever made by Hollywood, all the more amazing considering it was made almost on the fly (what people today call a "film noir" but what the producers though of as a "B" movie).

Tourneur is one of the best low budget directors in the business; fans of good film will seek out his movies, which cover all the different genres of film. His father was one of the creators of film style, and he has a striking sense of visual composition himself, which he puts to excellent use in this, possibly his best film.
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10/10
Not just one of the greatest noirs – one of the greatest movies, period.
bmacv2 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
As one of the most emotionally shaded, unforgettable instalments of the noir cycle, Jacques Tourneur's Out Of The Past opens deceptively – not in the neon-lit tenderloin of a big city some rainy night but up in the thin, cool air of the High Sierras, in a little town whose Main and only street boasts an open-kitchen beanery on one side and a gas station on the other. The sign on the station tells that it belongs to Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum), and when a stranger drops into the diner looking for his old pal Bailey, the waitress remarks `Small world.'

`Or big sign,' the out-of-towner cryptically replies.

Of course it's not a casual call to catch up on times past, because Mitchum has a past, a heavy one that's about to catch up with him, a past that he lived under another name. The visitor to the mountains is an emissary from silky operator Kirk Douglas, for whom Mitchum, with his partner in the private-eye racket Steve Brodie, has worked before, with fateful results. Mitchum senses that his particular jig may be up, and, before answering his summons from Douglas to meet him at Lake Tahoe, tells his story, in flashback, to his girl (Virgina Huston).

A woman (Jane Greer) had shot Douglas and absconded with his $40,000. Douglas engaged Mitchum to play bounty-hunter, to track her down and bring her and the loot back. His search led him to Mexico and a little bar called La Mar Azul, where she appeared `out of the sunlight,' elusive but radiant, and stole his heart. A few days later she reappeared, this time `out of the moonlight,' and under that subtropical moon they walked on the beach and then to her cozy bungalow, where a sudden deluge drenched them to the skin and blew open the door to their passion. Here, Tourneur establishes himself as the Great Romantic of the noir cycle – it's a charged and rapturous idyll.

But even illicit honeymoons must end. Greer and Mitchum came back to the States, lying low in the North Beach district of San Francisco, until the industrious Brodie, in Douglas' pocket, spotted them at a racetrack. They lay even lower, thinking they've finally eluded him, but he turned up one night at their mountain cabin, where Greer coldly shot him dead. Even more startled than Brodie was Mitchum, who saw Greer in a new light that neither sun nor moon provided – with the wrenching realization that she wasn't the innocent victim of bad men and worse circumstances that she'd sold herself to him as. She clinched the point by high-tailing off, leaving him to dispose of the body (and forgetfully leaving her bankbook, showing a deposit of the $40-grand that she'd lied about never taking).

So much for the past; the present now beckons, as does Douglas. He claims to harbor no ill will for Mitchum. And why should he? As Mitchum joins him for breakfast on the terrace, Greer is there, too, eating grapefruit as though nothing had happened. The past holds no claims on her; she lives the for next advantage the future can offer. But Douglas has a job for Mitchum, involving a shady lawyer and some compromising papers back in San Francisco.

Here the movie takes its most audacious turn (Daniel Mainwaring wrote the script from his novel Build My Gallows High – as Geoffrey Homes – and James M. Cain and Frank Fenton had their hands in it as well). Right in the middle of Out Of The Past we embark on something close to a movie-within-a-movie, a mini-Maltese Falcon, with a new set of characters and even a new femme fatale (Rhonda Fleming). The conventional look of film noir – taxicabs and elevators, penthouse apartments at night with the Coit Tower looming in the distance – finally gets full rein. But then into this murky scheme – a frame-up, really – emerges Greer, this time out of pitch darkness. The plots within plots begin to converge....

Out Of The Past was a pivotal picture for its three principals. It was only Douglas' second film, but he started big – in a supporting role but a meaty one, as in his debut the previous year in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (they're two of the best roles he would ever take). Mitchum had spent years in the galleys but finally got a leading role that let him unleash his distinctive persona – the fearless and nimble intelligence behind the nonchalant eyes, the world-weary retorts mumbled from behind the cigarette drooping from his lip (it's Mitchum's own appropriation of what Humphrey Bogart had started). The best of his many great lines he aims at Greer, calling her a `leaf that the wind blows from gutter to gutter.' And Greer, who made far fewer movies than her acting (graceful and natural) and her looks (like a less literal Jayne Meadows) would augur, takes her most emblematic credit and plays it to the hilt. Hers is perhaps the slowest transformation in the noir cycle and the most breathtakingly brutal. When, for her final scene, she shows up in a snood, it's clear that, for Mitchum, good times are no longer in store.

The talent that went into Out Of The Past is manifold. Both director of photography Nicholas Musuraca and Roy Webb, who wrote the responsive score, were old comrades of Tourneur from his earlier days in Val Lewton's B-movie unit at RKO. The credentials for the screenplay, as above, were impeccable, resulting in chiseled, quotable dialogue, right down to Paul Valentine (as one of Douglas' strong-arms) advising Greer, about to place a long-distance call, that `those dames listen in.'

But the most prestigious palm must go to Tourneur. He had less of a distinctive style to him – less of a `look,' less of a formula – than most of the top-flight noir directors; he was a chameleon, who used his talents less to make his own statement as to bring out the best in the scripts he was given. He was born in France and he died in France, but when in Hollywood he brought neither technical innovation nor rigorous theory to his work. Rather he looked for the human element that underlies and informs art – and he relished its complexity. (The movie, for instance, opens and closes on Dickie Moore, as a teenaged deaf mute in Mitchum's employ, and whose function in the story is far from a merely sentimental fillip.) Tourneur took film noir as close to tragic poetry as it would ever come, and Out Of The Past, his masterwork, raised the standards of the noir cycle as far as they would ever go. It's not just one of the greatest noirs, it's one of the greatest movies, period.
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9/10
Dickie Moore Rocks
HalfCentury17 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone quite rightly mentions the great work of the main cast of this film. And they are all great. But to me the cherry in the ensemble is Dickie Moore's deaf mute character. For whatever reason "the Kid" has this deep, unquestioning loyalty to Jeff. And in spite of his handicap, he definitely has Jeff's back. I've got spoiler on this comment because I'm mentioning the fly-fishing moment. That is one of my favorite scenes of all time. The way Moore plays it, he just turns into a bird dog, his focus so complete he's a statue. And zip, so long pal. Of course you got to love the end. The Kid can tell the truth about Jeff, or lie for the girl's happiness. And this quiet little character makes the tough classy decision. Then the goodbye wave. No lip pursing, or beetling of sad brow. Moore plays it perfect.
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10/10
A classic--maybe the best film noir ever
preppy-314 September 2004
Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) runs a small gas station in a little town in CA. He's in love with a beautiful girl. But he has a past which is about to catch up with him involving gangster Whit (Kirk Douglas) and evil Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer)...MANY twists and turns happen.

The plot is very complicated but this is a prime example of film noir. It's beautifully directed using darkness in almost every shot and has all the ingredients of a good noir--an innocent man (Robert Mitchum) in over his head, a bad guy (Kirk Douglas) and a totally amoral woman (Jane Greer). What makes this stands out (beside the incredible cinematography and direction) is a wonderful script. It's full of some truly incredible lines and delivered dead pan by the cast (as it should be). If any of them had winked at the camera once this would have failed. Mitchum plays it very stone-faced but Douglas is great and Greer is just fascinating as a totally evil, beautiful woman.

Basically a must-see film.
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8/10
Caught up by the Past
claudio_carvalho12 April 2008
In a small town in California, the mysterious Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) owns a small gas station and is in love with the local Ann (Virginia Huston). When a stranger just arrived in town meets him, Jeff is ordered to travel to meet the powerful criminal Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Before traveling, Jeff calls Ann and tells her the story of his life, when he was a private eyes hired by Whit for US$ 5,000.00 to find his former mistress Kathie (Jane Greer) that had shot Whit and stolen US$ 40,000.00. The competent Jeff finds Kathie in Acapulco, but she tells that she had not taken Whit's money and they fall in love for each other and escape from Whit. When the former partner of Jeff, Fisher (Steve Brodie), finds the couple living in an isolated cabin, Kathie kills him and Jeff buries his corpse. Jeff accidentally finds the receipt of deposit of the amount in Kathie's purse and leaves her forever. When Jeff meets Whit, he surprisingly finds Kathie living with him; Whit asks Jeff one last job to get even and release Jeff from his debt. But Jeff finds that Whit is actually framing him.

"Out of the Past" is an excellent film-noir, with a melancholic story and a magnificent and amoral female fatal. The direction of Jacques Tourneur is outstanding and the cinematography is very beautiful. Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer have top-notch performances, showing great chemistry. However, the fantastic screenplay is certainly the best in this movie, disclosing a complex plot with the use of flashback and great lines. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Fuga do Passado" ("Escape from the Past")
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9/10
Is This NotThe Best Noir?
jpdoherty4 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There was Siodmax' "The Killers" in 1946! There was Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" in 1950 and in between was RKO's OUT OF THE PAST in 1947. Together these three films represent the very best film noirs that ever was to come out of Hollywood or ever would again. Of the three however OUT OF THE PAST arguably stands a toe in front of the others as the all time favourite. Why is this? Perhaps it's because of its meatier narrative and story line with its palpable unrelenting dramatic thrust together with its extraordinary camera setups and its remarkable use of light and shadow or perhaps because of its faultless screenplay matched in interpretation by inspired casting. No matter what the reason OUT OF THE PAST simply manages to stand out as the most sublime and mesmerizing thriller ever made. Produced for RKO by Warren Duff it was splendidly written for the screen by Geoffrey Holmes which derived from his novel "Build My Gallows High" (the picture's title in England). Stunningly photographed in Black & White by Nicholas Musuraca it was arrestingly scored by Roy Webb (The best thing he ever did) and the picture was directed with a positive flair by Jacques Tourneur.

Jeff Markham, alias Jeff Bailey, (Robert Mitchum) a man with a past ekes out a living running a filling station outside Bakersfield. One day out of the blue - and out of Jeff's past - arrives Joe Stafanos (Paul Valentine) the strong-arm henchman of shady businessman Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). He's here with a message for Jeff that Whit wants to see him again. Some time ago Jeff was a private eye and Whit had engaged him to go to Mexico and hunt down his girlfriend Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) who had absconded with $40,000. In flashback we see Jeff finding her but unwittingly the vulnerable Jeff falls in love with her and they go on the run together. But not for long, Whit sends Jeff's estranged detective partner Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) to find them both but when he does Kathie shoots and kills him and disappears leaving Jeff to return to the states alone. He gives up the detective business and buries himself in Bakersfield running a gas station. Now Whit has located him and wants to see him. But it's only a ruse to have Jeff framed for Fisher's murder in retaliation for his disloyalty. Jeff goes anyhow to meet Whit at his mansion on Lake Tahoe and is astonished to find Kathie there ("Kathie's back in the fold again" declares a weaselly Whit). Later Kathie gets Stafanos to kill Jeff who fails in the attempt. Then she double crosses Whit and kills him. And the picture ends with Kathie making up to Jeff and wanting him to go away with her and start over again where they had left off in Mexico. Jeff pretends to agree but unbeknown to her he calls the police who set up a roadblock in which tragically they both perish. Jeff Bailey had finally gotten even with the woman who had lied, cheated, murdered and double crossed just about everyone for her own devious ends but in doing so he paid the ultimate price.

Performances are superb throughout. Here the dozy eyed Mitchum - in his first starring role - solidifies his playing of the private eye. But he also shows he could cut a wholly acceptable romantic lead helped along by his mellifluous and soft voiced atmospheric narration. One scene in particular is very effective where he is waiting for her on the beach at night and when she arrives Mitchum's voice is heard gently on the soundtrack ...."Then she'd come along.....just like school was out and everything else was just a stone by the sea". The wonderful Jane Greer is the quintessential femme fatale. Her gentle saintly beauty belying her treacherous, underhanded and calculating evil. And a young Kirk Douglas - here just feeling his way in movies - is fine as the courtly but odious villain. Adding greatly to the whole thing is the marvellous score by RKO resident composer Roy Webb which features a memorable and lingering main cue that becomes a tender love theme for the love scenes and is transformed into an exciting big band jazz number for the black nightclub sequence.

OUT OF THE PAST is the archetypal film noir! An outstanding document of what Hollywood could achieve in their golden past. Unfortunately they now seem to have taken a wrong turn off that road that so often led to greatness.

Classic Mitchum adage from OUT OF THE PAST............... "If anyone's gonna to die baby......I'm gonna die last".
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One of best 40's film noir - and where is it ?
xander-26 February 1999
Tremendously stylish, brilliantly scripted and wonderfully directed noir classic about a man who cannot escape from his past. Rarely does the genre get away from the grimy city streets with it's dark corridors and alleyways only partially lit by un-realistic streams of bright light. In this film we not only see the underworld gangs, the bars and floozies, the heavies and the fatales, but we also see the bright beautiful countryside, the streams and the rocks - a complete otherworld.

Mitchum is superb as the man who has escaped the city to live a new life in the country only to be dragged back by powerful forces. This broadening of the cinematic landscape makes the movie more affecting than your assorted Bogarts' & Ladds'. As with 'I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang' I feel much more sympathy for the lead actor who gets dragged back into the bear pit to wrestle for his life and soul.

'Out of the Past' also has some of the finest dialogue and narration I have ever heard, probably matched only by 'The Maltese Falcon'. 'She was like an autumn leaf blowing from gutter to gutter', is one gem that sticks in my mind.

The mood of the film is pleasantly melancholic and the portrayal of the fatale figure (Jane Greer) is particularly sympathetic. In most noir movies the male perspective of the double-crossing woman predominates (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's usually very funny). Here however, whilst Greer presents one of the blackest of women you at least know why she does what she does and can sympathise with her plight. She is trapped too.

Tourneur, tragically made few films but was a master at getting messages deep into your psyche, into your soul. 'Cat People 'and 'I Walked With a Zombie' both had otherworlds where the demons lived. We all have otherworlds too, places we'd rather not go very often, but as with Mitchum we are sometimes confronted with those demons and have to do battle once again. When I go next I hope to be wearing my hat at an exquisite angle and have my trench coat well belted.
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8/10
Excellent example of film noir at its best
blanche-217 September 2005
Full of atmosphere and heat, "Out of the Past" is a classic film noir, directed by a master, Jacques Tourneur. Although considered only an above-average B movie at the time of release, it's doubtful anyone thinks of it that way today, as it is superior to many "A" films. With a top-notch cast and a deceptively easy pace that belies the tension and danger underneath, "Out of the Past" makes for an intriguing, absorbing film.

Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer make a great pair - both are sultry, sexy, hard to read, and gorgeous. I found Greer's performance quite interesting. In the beginning, she appears quite warm, frightened, and sincere, as opposed to, say, Lizabeth Scott in "Dead Reckoning." When she turns hardboiled, it's subtle, with only a change in her eyes and voice, when she comments that Fisher isn't going to say anything to anybody. I love the way Mitchum sizes up women. He absolutely smolders, and 40 years later, in "The Winds of War," he was still smoldering.

Kirk Douglas is appropriately edgy in his supporting role as Whit. Rhonda Fleming has a small role, but no one that incredibly beautiful was going to go unnoticed for long.

What a wonderful film, what a perfect example of a genre.
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9/10
Surprisingly touching film noir
limshun19 June 2004
This is an extremely stylish film noir with a balanced, touching performance by Robert Mitchum. I was not expecting to be as moved by this film as I ultimately was. It has the snappy banter that one would expect of a film from the 40s, but the dialogue transcends mere wit and left me more than a little emotional. Mitchum is remarkably understated and cool, making his self-destructive behavior all the more entrancing. Kirk Douglas also adds a really light touch to his role, keeping his slick gangster more genuine than one might expect. I would have to say that while it is in many ways a typical film noir (and a fine example of the style), I have never seen anything quite like it. There are locations you would never expect to see in a film noir and a surprising bittersweet ending. Fantastic film.
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Definitive Film Noir
JB-1218 May 2000
This film established the Robert Mitchum screen persona. In it he established the easy going laconic style that was to become his trademark. His Jeff Bailey is the epitome of the 1940s tragic hero.

The story is told in flashback, a Film Noir tradition. Bailey owns a gas station in a small California town. But he is a man with a past, a past that comes back to haunt him(as in Hemingway's "The Killers")

Bailey tells us that he was a detective in his previous life. He was hired by a gambler to find a girl who had stolen $40,000 from him. Bailey found the girl and the money , but love got in the way.

To reveal anymore of this convoluted plot would ruin it for those who have not had the pleasure of not seeing this masterpiece.

In addition to Mitchum, the rest of the cast excels as well. Jane Greer is the perfect Femme Fatal. Kirk Douglas is mean and sadistic as the gambler. Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Huston, Steve Brodie and Paul Valentine provide excellent support.(Greer and Valentine were in the 1985 remake "Against the Odds".

Jacques Tourneur one of the great Noir directors does a fine job with Daniel Mainwaring's story and script(using the pseudonym Geoffery Homes) and the Roy Webb music is the perfect compliment.

A lot of young talent went into the making of this classic. Many of the people involved went on to bigger and better things. It is easy to understand why.
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9/10
The Scope of Her Evil
bkoganbing27 November 2006
Out of the Past came at a time for Robert Mitchum after one of the worst films in his career, Desire Me which he did on a loan out to MGM. He must have been grateful to get back to RKO studios and to do one of the best noir films ever done.

Mitchum plays the luckless Jeff Bailey, private eye who has the ill fortune to fall under the feminine charms of Jane Greer after gambler/racketeer Kirk Douglas hires him to find her and $40,000.00 she stole from him after shooting him. Mitchum trails her to Mexico, but when he meets her, let's just say he easily sees why Kirk Douglas wants her back so bad. It's one piece of intrigue after another at this point until there's tragedy all around.

This was Kirk Douglas's second picture and he showed his range as a player after playing a weakling in his debut film, The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers. Douglas and Mitchum got good notices, but this film really belongs to Jane Greer. The sheer scope of this woman's evil will leave you gasping. Out of the Past gave Jane Greer her career role and she made the most of it. Two of post World War II Hollywood's biggest leading men and several others in tow. It's breathtaking when you think of it.

Out of the Past is a real downer of a film, but mesmerizing as a study of how a man can get hooked on feminine charms applied right.
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7/10
How many shadows are there in this film?
caspian197829 July 2001
Out of the Past is one of the best film noir of all time. It's use of story line and lighting alone makes this film a winner. Robert Mitchum is the perfect detective character. Like a superhero, he gains his power from the city and is weak to his enemies when in the country. Great use of symbolisim throughout the film. When Mitchum falls for Moffat, we see the spider woman at work as she catches him in her spider web. (more like a fishing net on the beach) A terrific ending and beautiful camera work. A pure classic in film noir.
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7/10
Wrought Over
rmax3048231 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
O innocent victims of Cupid, Remember this terse little verse: To let a fool kiss you is stupid, To let a kiss fool you is worse.

Fine photography here by Musuraca. If you want a splendid example of "low key lighting" check out the scene in which Greer and Mitchum have their first serious conversation at night on the Acapulco beach, her face in shadow, but still her expressions discernible, her hair backlighted and its curls edged with a kind of mellow glow. His face more sharply defined, starkly creased with black and highlights. The rest of the film lives up to that scene, although it is notably lacking in day-lit shots of wide-open spaces. (There's really only one, in a death scene that takes place on a tumultuous river.)

Tourneur's direction is efficient. He moves the figures around evocatively, from Tahoe to San Francisco to Los Angeles to small towns in the Sierras. There are two "sex scenes" that he has to deal with. In the first, which occurs after the beach conversation, there is a conventional cut from a kiss to the surf rolling onto the sand. But in the second, when the lovers run into "her place" for the first time, they are wet from the rain. Mitchum dries her hair by rubbing it harshly then tosses the towel onto the "one light burning in the place," the lamp tumbles to the floor, the door is blown open by the wind, and there is a cut to the torrential downpour on the tropical plants outside. A tour de force of symbolic imagery. Did he laugh while planning it?

And that, I fear, is about it for me. I know it's considered a classic example of film noir, and it makes me wonder about why film noir is so highly regarded. Greer, of course, is a beautiful woman, which is nice, and as competent a performer as Mitchum. Except that Mitchum couldn't be described as beautiful. The icons are here -- trench coat, speeding cars, florid dialog, short-barreled black revolvers, hotels in the big city, lots of makeup, fedora hats, neon signs. Kirk Douglas is the most interesting actor. He oozes more insincerity than anyone else in the film, which is saying a lot since absolutely nobody is totally believable.

But I've seen this movie about three times over the course of the past decade and simply can't get with it. Mitchum seems tough but dumb. Nobody else is sympathetic. The plot line is twisted, hard to follow, and equally hard to believe. I found myself hoping Mitchum would wind up with the "nice girl" at the end, but didn't really care much. It wasn't really tragic when Mitchum and Greer are speeding along the dark road, Greer sees the roadblock, sneers "You dirty stinking rat," and plugs him during the struggle. I kept wondering while watching it, why I found myself comparing it to "The Maltese Falcon" and finding it wanting. I couldn't figure it out, really. It seemed disjointed and dull.

That's not to say it's trash. There is, after all, the photography and the direction, plus Douglas at his phoniest, in only his second movie. And it's also worth seeing for historical reasons. Everybody says it's a classic example of film noir, so see it and make your own judgment.
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Utterly brilliant movie which is a strong contender for the greatest film-noir ever made.
Infofreak27 May 2003
I have been a fan of Jacques Tourneur's horror movies ('Cat People', 'Night Of The Demon', 'I Walked With A Zombie',etc.) for many years, but for some reason I hadn't seen 'Out Of The Past' until very recently. Regarded by many noir buffs as one of the very best examples of the genre, if not THE best, it knocked my socks off! Some movies are so good that you almost can't believe they exist. 'Vertigo', 'Rashomon', 'Taxi Driver', 'Cool Hand Luke', 'The Wild Bunch', 'The Wages Of Fear', these are some titles that immediately spring to mind. Your jaw just drops in amazement, and repeated viewing reveal more layers and levels of enjoyment. 'Out Of The Past' now joins that group of very special movies for me. Tourneur's horror classics are brilliant works, but this movie surpasses them all to me. Everything about this movie is superb. The direction, photography, script (which crime legend James M. Cain of 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' and 'Double Indemnity' fame contributed to anonymously), and the actors. The cast are all good, but Robert Mitchum steals the show with a first rate performance, second only in my opinion to his unforgettable role in the extraordinary 'Night Of The Hunter'. The beautiful Jane Greer is also excellent, as is Kirk Douglas. If you want to get into film-noir and understand just how influential it was on subsequent movies, make 'Out Of The Past' your first stop. It is a masterpiece, pure and simple. I know this movie will be in my life for a very long time, and that gives me a lot of satisfaction. 'Out Of The Past' comes with my highest recommendation. I can't put into words just how great this movie is, so just watch it for yourself.
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9/10
Out of this world
Spondonman18 June 2006
My favourite Mitchum film - and Greer for that matter, 2nd favourite Tourneur after Night of the Demon, and also in my all-time Top 100 somewhere. Along with Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep this one (Build my gallows high) defines American film noir and with its cogent story, screenplay, acting, photography and production is true Art too, and yet still seems to me strangely neglected by critics, the media etc.

Private dick Mitchum has to find gangster Douglas's girl Greer who shot him and skedaddled with USD 40,000 of his - when he finds her he takes one second to fall for her which turns out ultimately disastrous for all concerned. And what man would blame him - Greer was very alluring, but the big problem was that even if she was taller than Napoleon she would probably have killed as many people if given the chance. At least she was basically a good girl again when they came to do The Big Steal 2 years later. All of the murders committed in here were memorably portrayed and something to mull over afterwards. The photography is something else - gleaming and stark black and white on nitrate stock and intelligent compositions mean the atmosphere generated is intense, whether seething, sexy, menacing or pastoral.

Over the decades I've seen BMGH probably nearly 20 times now with hardly any loss of admiration for it, it sucks me into its dirty world beautifully every time, so I think I like it!
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9/10
One of the best Noir ever
gravity323 July 2005
I don't like shoving films into a genre, mainly because a good film won't fit neatly into any one category. On the other hand, such genre groups are handy for general discussion and making "best of" lists, and so here I am sticking films in categories despite myself.

That said, there's not much film noir that stands up to OUT OF THE PAST. THE THIRD MAN, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and SUNSET BLVD. come quickly to mind. TOUCH OF EVIL, THE BIG SLEEP and THE SET-UP (even though it's a boxing movie) as well. It's a short list, and OOTP is right up there for me.

One reason is a superior plot thread. I actually found myself thinking "where is this going?" instead of "oh, please don't go there". Another reason is Robert Mitchum's outstanding performance. But really, there's not much to criticize here.

As it's not the first title coming to mind when one usually mentions the genre, I'll have to put the overly used phrase "don't miss this" in here, as any fan of film noir - or simply good movies - should make sure to see it. Unless you're one of those stuck on color film and think L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is noir, you're bound to like it.
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Profound and Classy Noir
PlutonicLove28 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Jacques Tourneur's consummate noir magnum opus 'Out of the Past' essentially follows the same premise as Siodmak's 'Criss Cross,' both depicting the downfall and demise of a fine man due to corruption by a callous femme fatale. Yet 'Out of the Past' remains clearly superior, with an intense profundity the later picture can only dream of. This is primarily due to its brilliantly intricate plotting, taut writing and, above all, thorough character development. Whereas all we learn about Steve Thomson is that he is a love-struck, irrational dope, prone to puzzling, almost martyr-like decisions, his equivalent here, Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum, in what is arguably his most excellent performance), becomes an almost instant identification figure for the audience, capable of following his well-defined ark from a composed, professional detective to a romantic hero, to a deeply cynical, perpetually wounded and toughened anti-hero – all without ever loosing his cool.

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

Unlike Thompson, Bailey remains one step ahead of his antagonists throughout most of the story, utterly seeing through the frame-up he is forced into and just about successfully playing all sides against each other. Though he is still tragically obsessed with the femme fatale Kathie Moffett (Jane Greer), he never trusts her again after the first betrayal, instead moving on and consummating a new liaison with the pure and virtuous Ann Miller (beautiful Virginia Huston), his apparently only chance of salvation. Jeff's tranquil existence with Ann is disturbed, however, when he is tracked down by Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine), the unctuous accomplice of gangster Whit Sterling (hunky Kirk Douglas), who wants him to perform one last job.

In the following conversation with Ann, Jeff decides to finally shed some light on his mysterious past. A heavily narrated flashback ensues, during which Jeff is hired by Whit to track down Kathie, his deceitful mistress. According to Whit, she shot him and stole $40,000 of his money, but all he really wants is for her to come back to him. When Jeff tracks her down in Mexico City, it becomes clear why: Kathie is an irresistible stunner. Naturally he falls hopelessly in love, protects her from Whit, and later, when she cold-bloodedly shoots one of Whit's goons, falls out of love (moreover, it turns out she deceived him about the money). He buries the goon's body and goes into hiding in a small Californian town, where he meets Ann. Thus ends the flashback.

Now it turns out that Kathie has rejoined Whit, who blackmails Jeff into recovering some incriminating tax reports, the film's McGuffin, by threatening to pin the goon's murder on him. Jeff soon realizes he is being framed, double-crosses Whit and Kathie, who in turn triple-cross him. He quadruple-crosses Whit, while Kathie quintuple-crosses both Whit and Jeff. She kills Whit and puts forward an ultimatum to Jeff: he must either take the fall for Whit's murder or run away with her, loving fugitives forever. Instead, he alerts the police. When she finds out, she shoots him and is consequently gunned down by said law enforcement officials.

To those largely unfamiliar with the film's two main characters, the above paragraph must seem quite absurd, yet in the context of their uniquely conflicted, astonishingly dysfunctional relationship, it makes perfect sense. When Jeff again finds Kathie with Whit, he is shaken and sickened, even (or especially) after she tells him that she still loves him. `You're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another,' he replies. `You can't help anything you do, even murder.' Hence they go about deceiving and insulting each other in ever more wily ways, more and more alike in their mendaciousness and vindictiveness. In the end, this struggle becomes not just self-destructive, but desperately suicidal. `We deserve each other,' they conclude. Still, by alerting the authorities, Jeff ultimately chooses Ann, even if he knows he won't live to return to her. This is, of course, is ancient cinematic convention.

Indeed, what makes 'Out of the Past' particularly effective is that at times it at least seemingly offers the protagonist a way out. The many glimmers of hope, mostly in the form of Ann, who loves Jeff quite unconditionally, make the film's gloomily nihilistic conclusion all the more potent. There is little to examine about their relationship beyond the obvious, though. Ann is so slavishly devoted to Jeff that there is never a shadow of a doubt in her mind that he is innocent and will eventually return to her. In the end, only when she is made to think that Jeff actually left her for Kathie is she able to move on with her life. Still, his rare scenes with her represent the moral center of the film. Set in a bucolic environment and bathed in heavenly light at all times, they are both in tone and style dramatically different from the rest, an effective counterpoint to the otherwise dismal goings-on.
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9/10
Achetypal Film Noir
seymourblack-112 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Out Of The Past" is a hardboiled thriller of the highest calibre with superb performances, sharp dialogue and a complicated plot which remains gripping and intriguing throughout. Robert Mitchum in his first starring role and Kirk Douglas in one of his earliest roles are both exceptional and the cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca creates a dark, ominous atmosphere by making clever use of expressionistic shadows. The presence of a tough private investigator, a devious and deadly femme fatale and themes of murder, deception, betrayal, double crosses and fatalism all combine to make this movie an archetypal film noir.

The idyllic existence which Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) had been enjoying in Bridgeport, California is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine). Joe says that his boss, a big time gambler called Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas), wants to see Jeff at his place at Lake Tahoe. Jeff feels compelled to agree and while travelling there tells his devoted girlfriend Ann (Virginia Huston) about his previous dealings with Whit Sterling.

In New York, Jeff (whose real name was Markham) and his partner Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) had been private investigators who were hired by Sterling to find his girlfriend Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) who'd gone missing after shooting Sterling and stealing $40,000. Jeff had located her in Acapulco, fell in love with her and together they relocated to San Francisco. There they kept a low profile and lived happily until Jack Fisher (who had been hired to find them by Sterling) saw Jeff one day and eventually caught up with the couple at a cabin. Jack demanded his cut of the fee which Sterling had offered for bringing Kathie back and their heated conversation led to a fight between the two men which culminated in Kathie shooting Jack dead. She then immediately disappeared leaving Jeff to bury the body. Ann is predictably shocked but regards what happened as being all in the past and says that she wants Jeff to come back to her after he's finished his business with Sterling.

At Lake Tahoe, Jeff discovers that Kathie is once again living with Whit and that he knows all that happened between them. Whit seems good humoured and unconcerned about the past and now wishes to hire Jeff to retrieve some tax records which a San Francisco lawyer called Leonard Eels (Ken Niles) is using to blackmail him. The events that follow lead to Jeff being framed for two murders and after a series of complex plot twists and a number of fatalities, the story reaches its denouement which is perfectly in keeping with the mood of pessimism and inevitability which prevails throughout the entire action.

Jeff Markham is smart and laid back and also regularly makes brilliant quick witted responses to remarks made by other people. His experiences have made him cynical and jaded but he still passively allows himself to be drawn into perilous situations against his own better judgement. This happens when he betrays Sterling's trust and goes with Kathie to San Francisco and again when he accepts Sterling's second assignment even though he senses that his employer wants revenge and is actually setting him up to be framed for murder. There's a certain inevitability about his actions and their consequences and he seems powerless to alter the course of the events that follow. Even his escapes to San Francisco and Bridgeport prove to be utterly futile.

Robert Mitchum with his trademark nonchalance is excellent as Markham and Kirk Douglas gives a memorable performance as Sterling. His good humoured and affable style actually adds greater menace and unpredictability to his character which the audience immediately recognise as a totally ruthless operator. Kathie Moffat is cunning and treacherous and betrays both Sterling and Markham. She also kills three men and sends another on a mission which leads to his death. Jane Greer is perfect in her role and is particularly successful in portraying her character's cold, callous and scheming nature.

"Out Of The Past" is a work of greater intelligence and substance than the vast majority of crime thrillers and a wonderful example of film noir at its purest and best.
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9/10
Film Noir With A Heart
slokes14 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The genre known as "film noir" has as many sine-qua-non exemplars as it does boundaries, ideas it must be nihilistic or be set entirely at night. "Out Of The Past" could be the greatest film noir for the way it challenges such assumptions while making its case for greatness. It's a classic anyway.

Robert Mitchum stars as a guy named Jeff, pumping gas in Bridgeport, California until history comes to collect him in the form of a sniggering lackey named Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine). Joe works for this other guy named Whit (Kirk Douglas) who wants Jeff to do a job, one which as it turns out involves a woman named Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) who both Jeff and Whit had a past with. Never mind Jeff now has true love with Ann Miller (Virgina Huston); Kathie has enough hottitude to drag poor Jeff to his doom, however nobly Jeff may try to play his feeble hand.

"Is there a way to win?" Kathie once asked in her past with Jeff.

"There's a way to lose more slowly," replied Jeff, optimistically more than realistically as things turn out.

Crisp dialogue is one key strength of this film, along with fantastic supporting performances by Greer, Huston, Valentine, Dickie Moore as Jeff's one true pal, and especially Douglas, who in an early performance plays down any histrionic "I Am Sparticus" expectations you may have with his cocksure, amiable, low-key performance as the main bad guy. "I fire people, but nobody quits on me," he tells Jeff, with only the slightest sense of menace in his eyes. Yet that slightest sense makes all the difference.

It helps a lot that Mitchum plays the lead. I was not convinced of his greatness going into this film, but he blows away all doubts. Like imogensara_smith points out in her review here, Mitchum gives a kind of scat-jazz vocalization to his performance, finding the off-center angle to give his words the right flow. Single words like "Sure," "Okay," and "Thanks" in his hands feel almost like Sinatra hitting the off-beats on a Sammy Cahn lyric. His longer lines feel every bit as clever as Bogart's in "Casablanca." Just Mitchum's opening scenes with Huston, set by criminally-underestimated director Jacques Tourneur to a sunny landscape we might mistake for Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" except its California and not Michigan, is enough to make the case for Mitchum's thematic representation as the consummate 20th-century man. Sure, he's laconic, but he kills you all the same.

So does Greer, from the first line she says to Jeff, regarding a pair of earrings he offers her: "I never wear them." Do you then notice the number of scenes thereafter when she is wearing earrings? Virginia Huston may be wooden, but so is the hull of a boat that keeps it afloat. "Out Of The Past," unlike so many clever, soul-killing film noirs before and after, works not from playing against the grain of human kindness and loyalty but for how it highlights same. Mitchum and Moore both present us with guys who are committed to Hemingway's ideal of "grace under pressure" however little they benefit from living by it. Save your "D.O.A" and "Criss Cross" however sympathetic its heroes; "Out Of The Past" gives you a Roman ideal of stoicism whom the gods play with but cannot quite break, however Jeff bends.

SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD - I can't claim this film is perfect; unlike a diamond it doesn't benefit from every angle of view. What is Jeff's supposed motive for killing the lawyer Eels? Or Joe's for trying to shoot Jeff? I think I know why Kathie gave Jeff accurate info on where Eels' files went, and it only adds to the drama of their relationship. Ambiguity is a good thing generally, both for making one thing while watching a film and after, something "Out Of The Past" proves again and again. - SLIGHT SPOILERS END

The best thing about "Out Of The Past" is that it resists snap judgments about any of its characters, even Kathie. Why, even snide Joe seems humanized by the sight of death, and Whit may or may not be the victimizer Kathie claims (we see him slap her once, but is he a sadist or reacting to her vicious character the same way Jeff and we have since the movie's first-half was over?) How do Kathie's cat eyes and obvious cunning contrast with memories of sunny Acapulco?

You carry memories of Acapulco, too, watching this and trying to figure out who's right or wrong. The human condition is a drag generally, but something about "Out Of The Past" makes it seem fun.
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10/10
Few Are As Excellent As This One
bleakeye28 January 2002
"Out Of The Past" is a film that surpassed all my expectations. Few films have satisfied me as much as this. Believable characters with a great story makes this and other films like it good, but what separates this from all other 'Film-Noir', detective stories is it's dramatic mood. This is the only film I've ever seen where I know what's likely to happen yet somehow I find myself deeper and deeper in it's story. I find myself amidst all of the danger, disappointments and betrayals and still wanting more. No other movie will probably surpass this one's greatness (though some may be as great).

Eerie yet provocative, "Out Of The Past" is handled with seemingly great care by it's director, Jacques Tourneur. From the great camera shots of the trees in the forest location to the shots of San Francisco full of shadows at night, I was already impressed. Acting by Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and every one of the cast only cemented the mood that made this movie so easily watchable. I consider this one of my favorites and one of the best movies I'll ever see in my lifetime.
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6/10
There Was A Better Mitchum-Greer Noir
ccthemovieman-124 March 2006
Try as I might, I could never get this film noir starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer to be as good to me as it's reputation. This film is often mentioned as one of the best of the film noir genre, but I never found it so. The poster is far better. In fact, if you want to see a more interesting film noir with Mitchum and Greer, then watch "The Big Steal."

Nonetheless, I think the confusing story with its convoluted storyline brings it down. Unlike most noirs than occur in a big city, this one involves the countryside from San Francisco to Acapulco. Kirk Douglas doesn't have a big role in here but he makes his presence felt. He does a good job of being both menacing and personable at the same time.

It also was nice to see this on a good DVD transfer as I was never able to find a good VHS of this movie. It does make the viewing experience a lot better....but I'm still looking for more with this film. I'll say what most "crtiics" are afraid to admit: it's overrated.
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Don't Miss This One!
wiluxe-214 January 2004
What seems to be missing in the critiques of this fantastic, dark little film is a good look at the screenplay: tough, intelligent, crisp, complex, clever, and real, with nary a superfluous word. Geoffrey Homes (aka Daniel Mainwaring) wrote the screenplay from his even darker mystery HANG MY GALLOWS HIGH, itself beautifully written, occasionally even poetic.

There is so much double-crossing going on in this film you don't know what or who to believe. Given their attractiveness, intelligence, sincerity, and wit, it's hard to believe that the characters portrayed by Jane Greer and Rhonda Fleming (both looking EXTREMELY hot) and by Mitchum and Kirk Douglas can't be trusted by anyone.

I've watched this film at least a dozen times. I never tire of it. Brilliant, exciting, and beautiful. A masterpiece.
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7/10
The essential film noir...has everything the genre demands...
Doylenf14 November 2006
OUT OF THE PAST is like watching a textbook lesson in Film Noir 101.

It has so many layers of plots and sub-plots, so much rich B&W texture in Nicholas Musuraca's shadowy photography, so many ambiguous moments that keep you guessing what's around the corner, and so many memorable quotes in scene after scene that you could spend the entire movie just writing down the crafty lines. What a blessing it must have been for these actors to read the script and savor the flavor of the lines they would be reciting.

ROBERT MITCHUM, of course, slouching around in trenchcoat and hat on the prowl for the femme fatale, was at his peak as a movie hero, fully aware of the dangers ahead as he meets up with shady old friend KIRK DOUGLAS. (Incidentally, the Mitchum/Douglas chemistry is just as strong, if not stronger, than that between Mitchum and JANE GREER). Greer has the sultry good looks for a femme fatale but she's just a little too poker-faced to make her crimes seem credible.

Once the screenplay makes clear that he's about to be more prey than predator, it becomes fascinating to watch the way he falls into the web of deceit so completely. Then the film becomes a little more burdensome to watch as the double crosses begin. There ought to be an ALERT message flashing on the screen as the plot becomes more involved. You need to be watching carefully as events unfold on screen or you'll lose track of the story details that all mesh together at the end.

Even the ending is not as deceptively simple as it looks. There are implications that someone is not telling the whole truth, but I won't give that plot detail away here. Stay alert until that final scene and you'll see what I'm getting at.

Mitchum, Greer and Douglas are excellent and they have a wonderful cast of supporting players that never let them down. The script is a marvel of how a film noir should be constructed with the clever lines completely appropriate for the characters and never once do they ring a false note.

By all means, it's the kind of private eye story everyone can enjoy, as dark and shadowy as any film noir you've ever seen--and then some. It's one of RKO's most memorable noirs.

Trivia note: Personally, I like the original title which, I believe, is the title of the novel: BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH.
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