Saturday, April 25, 2020

Movie Reviews: Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy
directed by Joseph E. Lewis

I've always liked older movies. Over the past few years I've been watching more noir films. This 1950 film, although it obviously was not explicit in terms of sex or violence, was nonetheless quite bold at how it used those two themes.
It was something which was Tarantino before its time. The script was written by blacklisted screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo.

Gun Crazy certainly had to have made an impression on Arthur Penn's later film Bonnie and Clyde, in terms of the beret wearing female lead, the innovative camera work and the automobile being used as metaphor for danger and freedom. There is a long unbroken shot from the rear of the automobile that is intoxicating. It puts the viewer in the criminals' POV.

Although as mentioned there's little here that would offend modern audiences in terms of sex/violence (people fall down wordlessly when they're shot, an attractive woman runs while wearing tight clothing) in some aspects this is an intensely sexy film. The leads had great chemistry together. People can express a tremendous amount of emotion with eyes and facial expressions.

Bart Tare (John Dall) is an aw shucks kind of guy who, despite being unwilling to harm any living creature, has since childhood been obsessed with firearms of all kinds. Not only is he a natural marksman, he also continually works to improve his skills. 

After a stint in reform school for stealing a gun Bart has spent much of his adult life in the army training other soldiers to shoot. Coming home, Bart and his friends attend a carnival featuring skilled sharpshooter Annie Starr (Peggy Cummins), a young woman who displays incredible gun skills to the audience and routinely defeats any challengers.

Both Annie and Bart immediately like what they see in each other. Egged on by his friends who recognize that Bart is not exactly Mr. Smooth with the ladies, Bart challenges Annie to a duel of skills, and wins. That really turns Annie on. There's not many men who can outshoot little Annie. Annie's been looking for a man she considers up to her standards. 

Annie convinces the carnival boss Packett (Berry Kroeger) to hire Bart. As Bart learns though Packett and Annie have history together. And Packett at least would like to have a future with Annie. 
One night Bart prevents Packett from assaulting Annie. Packett fires them both. Bart and Annie get married. The two don't have much money. Annie loves Bart because by her lights he's a real man with guts, unlike the small minded Packett.

But Annie has no interest in waiting around for Bart to build a life for her on a $40/week job that he hasn't found yet. 
Annie has ideas for quick money, robberies. Bart reluctantly agrees provided no one gets hurt. 
However, Annie doesn't have the same objections to violence that her hubby does. It's easier to get into crime than it is to get out.

This was an entertaining movie that in so many ways was the cinematic incarnation of the later Eagles lyrics:
She said, "Listen, baby, you can hear the engine ring.""We've been up and down this highway, haven't seen a goddamn thing."
This is a two against the world story. The husband and wife have different pasts and different ideas about violence. They argue with each other, but are loyal to and protective of each other, no matter what.
This was more Cummins' film than Dall's. Annie is always watching her husband's back. Woe to anyone Annie thinks will harm Bart, even his relatives or cops. Dall and Cummins improvised much of their dialog with each other, which added to the film's naturalistic feel. Although some might see in this film stereotypes of female temptresses, a scene where Annie casually puts on stockings while telling Bart what she wants certainly fits into that interpretation, I think this movie made it clear that the man and woman both fulfilled a need in each other. The cinematography and lighting are first rate.
blog comments powered by Disqus