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Out Of The Past / The Big Steal


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If there's such a thing as the ultimate noir, it's OUT OF THE PAST. DOUBLE INDEMNITY is better. DETOUR is more compact. But OOTP has all the elements. The tragic downfall, the wicked woman, the shadowy atmosphere.

 

MALTESE FALCON is a mystery. ASPHALT JUNGLE a caper film. Jacques Tourneur's wonderful nightmare is noir and nothing else. It's the epitome of the genre.

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I love *Out of the Past*. What everyone says about it is true; Jane Greer is perfect as the lovely and deadly Kathie, the black and white cinematography is as noirish as you can get ( although those mountain fishing scenes are pretty un -noirish- still, it makes for an effective contrast to the San Francisco settings), the story is suitably dark, and Robert Mitchum, erotically obsessed with a femme fatale, street smart, world weary, plays the ultimate noir hero as no other could.

 

Now I am going to make a very blasphemous statement: I don't think it's the very best film noir ever, and unless I'm in the mood for it I don't even enjoy it as much as many others.

I just listed most of the things it's got going for it. But there are a few flaws, and people rarely seem to notice them.

For one thing, although all noirs tend to have extremely complicated plots, *Out of the Past* just about takes the cake. True, *The Big Sleep* is even more convoluted, but nobody even expects to understand the plot of *TBS* . Now plot is never the most important element of noir anyway, so it shouldn't matter that much. It's all about character, shadowy visuals, and atmosphere. Still, if one is not wide awake, it's quite easy to fall asleep half-way through *Out of the Past*. And we don't want our beloved noirs to be regarded as soporifics.

Also, the film is so damned serious. Yes, film noir is not suited to comedy, and nobody expects or wants big laughs from this kind of movie. But it's relentlessly solemn. Most noirs have kind of entertaining side characters or witty dialogue at some point. Despite Kirk Douglas' perpetually smiling face in this ( and the more he smiles, the scarier he gets) there's no levity whatsoever.

Anyway, that's my sacriligious two cents worth on *Out of the Past*. I still really like it, I just don't agree that it's the holy grail of noir that so many say it is.

 

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Does anyone else see a resemblance between Richard Webb (the good guy sheriff in Out Of The Past) and Dr Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer)? I had to look up Richard Webb because I really don't know him from anything else. He did do a lot of tv and was Captain Midnight in the 50's. Still, as soon as I see him in *Out Of The Past*, I think of Frasier, the look and even the mannerisms.

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I'll attempt to agree with you without contradicting myself. The complex and ambiguous stuff with Rhonda Fleming weighs the film down. I'm not sure I understand it yet. If there's a way to tell the story without that, it might play more efficiently.

 

The serene countryside is not typical of the genre. But the contrast it provides is so Jekyll and Hyde. He's gone from this to...

 

Perhaps "ultimate" is the wrong word. I don't say OOTP is the best of its kind. There are two, three, even four I like better. But none are more clear-cut examples of noir.

 

Satisfied, baby?

 

 

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See, I think the Rhonda Fleming business is over-rated. You'd think she was in the film almost as much as Jane Greer is, the way people go on about her character in this. But in point of fact she's only in two scenes ( anyone else think " in point of fact" is a fun expression? But I digress.)

Yeah, two short scenes - what's the big deal? Rhonda Fleming Rhonda Schleming. So she pretends Mitch is her cousin, a lie so transparent it's almost cute that she attempts it. Yes, she's leading Mitch up the weedy garden path to a great big frame ( is that mixing metaphors? ) but she's just a tool of the big Kirk, as is the effete Joe Stephanos. (He comes the closest to a comedic character in this film.) I like her peasant blouse in her first scene, though.

 

Despite my criticisms, I will go so far as to say that *Out of the Past* is "outstandingly great".

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My favorite Noir I have seen so far is *Night and the City*, as long as it is dark Widmark stays alive but once the sun comes out at the end he gets tossed in the water.

 

I saw the western *Station West* and that is almost a Noir Western with the lady that steals the gold and gets shot at the end.

 

*The Big Sleep* made little sense at the start until I read the synopsis on it and realized they had heavily censored parts of it, like the daughter that is drugged out and was supposedly being photographed nude by the pornographer. He is the guy that runs his operation out of the bookstore with the girl that has no clue about books.

 

*The Postman always rings Twice* is a great movie but today at the end they would never allow the guy to happily go off to be executed, they would need twenty appeals and then let him off on a technicality. Also he cheats on Lana Turner which i thought was not believable, who would cheat on Lana?

 

*The Hitch-Hiker* is an interesting one where they end up with the guy who takes the other two hostage in a car which travels down to Baja California mexico and the Policia down there has to apprehend them.

 

*Gun Crazy* is a great movie, I like the way they first meet at the circus with the trick-shooting. Sort of a Bonny and Clyde movie but small time.

 

*The Lodger* is also interesting, it is obvious who the guy is but they have to find out the hard way, lolz.

 

*The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse* is also a favorite with the naive gang, and there is just something funny when Bogie calls Eddie G. Dr. Clitterhouse. He also says he is sane at the end, and they don't buy it, lolz.

 

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I always thought that Mrs. D got that anklet from her old

 

man, who likely got a discount on it from a fellow USC alumnus.

 

It certainly was an attention getter and how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can get the plot of OOTP when I'm watching it, but it dims

 

a bit when I haven't seen the movie for a while. Meta Carson?

 

Who would trust a woman with the first name of Meta, though

 

she's certainly over easy on the eyes. And Leonard Eels ? Yeah,

like he ever had a chance.

 

 

 

 

 

Well now, if I were ole Jeff Bailey I wouldn't go back for the second

 

time around. Of course that would shorten the movie quite a bit. If

 

I did go back, after Kathie knocked off Kirk, I'd blow her pretty brains

out (Baby, I don't care), write or type a suicide note confessing to the

murders (or better yet, get her to write the note before her untimely death),

and get the heck out of there and back to sweet Ann. It may not have

worked, but it sure beats the alternative. Jim? He makes Dennis O'Keefe look

like Cary Grant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Miss Moffat,

Sat on a tuffet,

Drinking a sloe gin fizz,

Along came a man,

Who sat down besides her,

And blew Miss Moffat away.

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Beating on the same poor, dead horse. Noir story wise the only distinction I make between *DI* and *OOTP* is that Fred Mac did actually commit murder and is therefore a bad guy. He deserves his fate. On the other hand, Big Bob never does anything that is so deserving of the ultimate fate, he loses his life. Jeff Bailey is a tragic character. In *Where The Sidewalk Ends* , Dana Andrews gets a break, he must go to jail. Presuming he'll get a reduced sentence and the girl will wait for him (do they really wait that long?) , Andrews comes out a lot better then maybe he deserves.

 

 

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Finance,

 

It's remotely possible that I'm wrong. This doesn't leave this room.

 

Movie Madness,

 

Very good nutshell descriptions of some fine movies. You write well. But I would take the cat lady over Lana!

 

Brigid,

 

I think we all agree this is an exceptionally excellent movie!

 

 

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Again, mmroberts you hit the nail on the head. "Jeff Bailey is a tragic character"; indeed. He was a fool and he did compromise his principles when he runs off with the dame but in no way should his actions result in his final fait; death.

 

Note that the ending is indeed true to the noir vision since Jeff does die. In another thread it was said that Bogie was first asked to play the part. I wonder if an major star like Bogie did the role that the studio wouldn't of wanted the ending to change. To have Bogie live with the understanding he would be cleared of any murders. Now that romantic type of ending would made the picture just another picture instead of what we have now; what of the top film noirs because the movie is true to the noir vision.

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Its my understanding (and I believe RO said same) that Bogart was the first choice for *Out Of The Past* and he wanted the part. I don't think Bogie would have minded dying (he had lots of practice at that), it fits the story well. But Warners was very hesitant to loan out their number one star , Bogart was very hot at the time. Mitchum was under contract, available, and obviously cheap; but someone had to have some vision that Mitchum could do it and would score with the public. Big Bob hit it out of the park, didn't he?

 

Edited by: mrroberts on Jun 29, 2011 5:23 PM

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Tomorrow June 30th 1:45 PM est is *Desperate* , a very good noir starring Steve Brodie. Brodie did this right after his part in *Out Of The Past*; he played Mitchum's sleazy private eye partner Fisher (who gets iced by the evil Kathie Moffat). Steve Brodie was in a lot of films during the noir era, usually a supporting actor, I think he always gives a good performance. He carries the starring role well in *Desperate*, I'm surprised he didn't get more chances at lead roles. He moved into tv roles in the mid 50's and did a ton of tv through the 60's. *Desperate* was directed by Anthony Mann, so you know its going to be a gritty, fast paced noir.

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My bad. I got it into my head he was a USC alumnus for some

 

reason. I hope Stanford alums don't have the same pull here

that Elvis fans do. Of course Stanford is the home of the Hoover

Institute, named after Herbert Hoover, a Stanford alum. Oops, never

mind.

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I can see I am in the minority here, but I found *Out Of The Past* to not be believable at all and it's only so-so for me.

 

Jane Greer for me is miscast, I never believed she could shoot anyone. And if she could, she would have certainly shot Mitchum when they first met or at the least when they returned to the states.

 

Next is Kirk Douglas who I doubt would ever open up his tax dodging to an outsider like Mitchum when that could be handled in-house. Nobody would trust Mitchum with those tax documents when they are framing Mitchum to get them. Kirk also allowed someone back who shot him four times? And stole 40 grand? With the money he had he could have had twenty babes every day and would be very unlikely to take any risk on Greer.

 

Also Mitchum never does anything illegal as far as I could tell so had nothing to fear as long as he pins Greer for the murder in the cabin (The affidavit story was weak). At the end he calls the cops which is what any sane person would have done half way through the movie.

 

This movie does remind me of *The Killers* where the guy flees and is discovered, I think that movie is much more believable and has more dangerous characters that this movie.

 

Anyway sorry to be negative on this one, Mitchum and Kirk did great it was just the plot I guess.

 

 

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Steve Brodie was one of those great character actors who appeared in so many films, most knew his face but not his name, his TV appearances were also many, from "Gunsmoke" to "Wyatt Earp", from Alfred Hitchcock Presents" to "Perry Mason" He appeared in almost every in the 50's and 60'sthru the 80's

In movies, he shot it out with Tim Holt in a few of his westerns and took "A Walk in the Sun" and "Steel Helmet". Once in a great while he got a starring role in a small film and he proved himself.

His real name was John Stevens, but he took as his screen name Steve Brodie, after the man who was supposed to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886 and lived. Hence the term for a "jumper" He took a Brodie".....

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Jun 30, 2011 2:06 AM

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Personally I much prefer The Big Steal, perhaps because it is more humerous. As for the plot of Out of the Past, it appears as realistic as 90% of the noir, gangster, mystery, suspense movies made. Actually more realistic than 90% of what passes for suspense or mystery today.

If you like these, you'll enjoy His Kind of Woman and Macao also. both with Mitchum and Jane Russell.

Seems to me that TCM is showing fewer and fewer real noir movies than they used to, excpet for some that are actually less than "B" movies to me. I know "B" means bottom half of a double feature.

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