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PITFALL (1948) - Monday, Sept 2 at 4:15 pm EST


TomJH
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Don't get me wrong;  I'm A-OK that she shot the slimy Burr.   I yelled 'yea,  finally' when she shot him.    My point is that this being noir the film couldn't end with a happy ending for all.    But I do see you're point;  the screenwriter had to chose between the  Husband who cheaps or the single gal he cheated with and of course it is the gal.  But note that even Powell's ending isn't rosy.   His wife take him back but with reservations.      The fact that the ending doesn't say what happens to Scott does provide hope for those rooting for Scott's character.     Just assume she uses her talents on a jury and beats the rap!

Thanks, james.

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He wasn't stalking her? He wasn't harassing her?

 

The law says that the crimes of stalking and harassing are not punishable by death, and you can't kill someone who is just packing a bag.

 

If it was up to me, Raymond Burr should have been shot at the beginning of every film he was in. :)

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If it was up to me, Raymond Burr should have been shot at the beginning of every film he was in. :)

Now that's just silly. If that was the case, how would we ever grow to despise him? ;)

 

Pitfall has one of the very best of Burr's creepy performances. His character rationalizes and justifies (to himself, at least) all of his obsessive, stalker behaviour.

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Now that's just silly. If that was the case, how would we ever grow to despise him? ;)

 

Pitfall has one of the very best of Burr's creepy performances. His character rationalizes and justifies (to himself, at least) all of his obsessive, stalker behaviour.

 

I agree about Burr's creepy performance and how he does rationalize his actions.    That makes his role more interesting then if he was just a flat out creep.     Burr's character does have some valid reasons (from a very slanted perspective),  for his rationalizations;    Scott's former boyfriend was a criminal and Scott's current flame is a married man.   So from Burr's POV he could say:  Hey,  if she can go out with guys like that,  what is wrong with me?    I'm better then those guys and I'm going to make her mine.

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I agree about Burr's creepy performance and how he does rationalize his actions.    That makes his role more interesting then if he was just a flat out creep.     Burr's character does have some valid reasons (from a very slanted perspective),  for his rationalizations;    Scott's former boyfriend was a criminal and Scott's current flame is a married man.   So from Burr's POV he could say:  Hey,  if she can go out with guys like that,  what is wrong with me?    I'm better then those guys and I'm going to make her mine.

Burr's character, aside from his creepy qualities, is a formidable opponent in the film because he is also intelligent. I think the viewer can easily identify with Powell and Scott who must be thinking, "How the heck do I get rid of this guy?" Powell is in a delicate position because, though essentially a decent guy, he has indulged in an affair that he doesn't want his wife to know about, and he doesn't want to hurt his marriage (yes, I know he should have thought of that before the affair but he is a true flawed noir lead trapped by circumstances, some of it of his own making). Scott is a hapless bad luck individual who feels she's bad luck for others, as well. She could make trouble for Powell but doesn't, because she, too, is a decent sort.

 

Then comes this dark cloud over them played by Burr.

 

Very effective little drama, much of its action propelled forward by Burr's character.

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Burr's character, aside from his creepy qualities, is a formidable opponent in the film because he is also intelligent. I think the viewer can easily identify with Powell and Scott who must be thinking, "How the heck do I get rid of this guy?" Powell is in a delicate position because, though essentially a decent guy, he has indulged in an affair that he doesn't want his wife to know about, and he doesn't want to hurt his marriage (yes, I know he should have thought of that before the affair but he is a true flawed noir lead trapped by circumstances, some of it of his own making). Scott is a hapless bad luck individual who feels she's bad luck for others, as well. She could make trouble for Powell but doesn't, because she, too, is a decent sort.

 

Then comes this dark cloud over them played by Burr.

 

Very effective little drama, much of its action propelled forward by Burr's character.

 

The only question I have related to the character of Scott's character is:   Did she really not know her ex-boyfriend was a criminal and that all the nice stuff he had given her was stolen?

 

Of course she is willing to return all the stuff so that is a sign she is decent (but maybe her motive was mostly just to avoid trouble).

 

Like a mob boss's wife or gal,  it is convenient to remain clueless:   Thanks for the boat honey,  nice that you could afford that while working as a waiter!  

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The only question I have related to the character of Scott's character is:   Did she really not know her ex-boyfriend was a criminal and that all the nice stuff he had given her was stolen?

 

Of course she is willing to return all the stuff so that is a sign she is decent (but maybe her motive was mostly just to avoid trouble).

 

Like a mob boss's wife or gal,  it is convenient to remain clueless:   Thanks for the boat honey,  nice that you could afford that while working as a waiter!  

I'm not certain and even if she did have her suspicions about the items, well, that just makes her human for not asking too many questions. All of which makes Scott's character human. There are no perfect characters in film noir.

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I'm not certain and even if she did have her suspicions about the items, well, that just makes her human for not asking too many questions. All of which makes Scott's character human. There are no perfect characters in film noir.

 

Well I disagree with the POV that, 'that just makes her human'.     Receiving stolen goods is a crime and there is a reason it is a crime.

 

A decent person would ask questions and unless they were convinced the goods were not stolen they wouldn't accept them.  Now I wouldn't expect a person to turn the thief over to the cop (not doing that I would define as 'just makes them human'),  but accepting the stolen goods and pretenting otherwise shows a lack of character.  

 

While there are no perfect characters in film noir,   I don't see how that relates to the 'just makes her human' POV.  If she suspected the goods where stolen,  that supports the POV that she wasn't a really decent character but instead one living on the edge.   It would also make her NOT a victim.  

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Well I disagree with the POV that, 'that just makes her human'.     Receiving stolen goods is a crime and there is a reason it is a crime.

 

A decent person would ask questions and unless they were convinced the goods were not stolen they wouldn't accept them.  Now I wouldn't expect a person to turn the thief over to the cop (not doing that I would define as 'just makes them human'),  but accepting the stolen goods and pretenting otherwise shows a lack of character.  

 

While there are no perfect characters in film noir,   I don't see how that relates to the 'just makes her human' POV.  If she suspected the goods where stolen,  that supports the POV that she wasn't a really decent character but instead one living on the edge.   It would also make her NOT a victim.  

 

I completely understand why some people (particularly those not well off financially) would not ask a lot of questions about an item received, and I don't feel compelled to condemn them for their behaviour.

 

I think that just shows them to be human, with that behaviour not excluding them from any definition that I have of decency.

 

On a fictional level, I would apply that to Scott in Pitfall. We clearly have different viewpoints on this one, James.

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Now that's just silly. If that was the case, how would we ever grow to despise him? ;)

 

Pitfall has one of the very best of Burr's creepy performances. His character rationalizes and justifies (to himself, at least) all of his obsessive, stalker behaviour.

Pitfall has one of the very best of Burr's creepy performances.

 

I'll say. I had to switch off at certain points, he was making my hair stand on end.

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I completely understand why some people (particularly those not well off financially) would not ask a lot of questions about an item received, and I don't feel compelled to condemn them for their behaviour.

 

I think that just shows them to be human, with that behaviour not excluding them from any definition that I have of decency.

 

On a fictional level, I would apply that to Scott in Pitfall. We clearly have different viewpoints on this one, James.

Interesting thoughts on the characters.

 

I don't think she is a saint, and I don't think she is particularly smart - sitting down next to Burr, taking the ex-boyfriend back, yeah that was going to turn out well - but I do see her as a victim of circumstances. I think her life was in danger, having let Burr in the apartment. And yes, it was deliberately dubious, but I think Burr would have killed her, justifiable homicide.

 

I also don't think Powell was squeaky clean, either. He diddled a little, and then decided, okay I'm really happy at home, so I'm going to whistle while I work at the office. Oh, good morning everyone, I'm a good guy now. Wait, bad guy coming over? Take out the gun, dim the lights, wait for him. Sound of glass crashing - how did we know who broke what and when? - and then oh hi everyone, a prowler came into my house.

 

I guess the movie was more interesting than I thought it was.

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I think her life was in danger, having let Burr in the apartment. And yes, it was deliberately dubious, but I think Burr would have killed her, justifiable homicide.

 

In most states, you can not murder someone because of what you think they "might" do.

 

During my years in the news business, I learned a lot about something called "common law", which is an old English term which meant something like "laws that seem right but that are not written in any lawbook", or "unwritten 'laws'".

 

Many judges, cops, and DAs will say "There is no such thing as common law."

 

And, in some states, that is true.

 

So, I would say that in some states, she might have gotten away with her shooting of him, but in others (especially California) she would not.

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I completely understand why some people (particularly those not well off financially) would not ask a lot of questions about an item received, and I don't feel compelled to condemn them for their behaviour.

 

I think that just shows them to be human, with that behaviour not excluding them from any definition that I have of decency.

 

On a fictional level, I would apply that to Scott in Pitfall. We clearly have different viewpoints on this one, James.

 

Well Scott's character in the movie got more than ONE item and some like the boat were expensive items.

 

So yea, we have a much different viewpoint on what defines a decent person.   Not being well off doesn't justify commiting crimes IMO.

 

Related to movies,  note how movies like Dead End and Scarface handle a similar issue between mother and son.   In both movies the mother doesn't want any money from her son because she knows the money wasn't obtained legally.    These mothers were NOT well off, but in fact far from it.  To me that is what a decent person does.   If a mother can reject their own criminal son,  then a decent gal should be able to do the same with her criminal boyfriend.    

Edited by jamesjazzguitar
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Interesting thoughts on the characters.

 

I don't think she is a saint, and I don't think she is particularly smart - sitting down next to Burr, taking the ex-boyfriend back, yeah that was going to turn out well - but I do see her as a victim of circumstances. I think her life was in danger, having let Burr in the apartment. And yes, it was deliberately dubious, but I think Burr would have killed her, justifiable homicide.

 

I also don't think Powell was squeaky clean, either. He diddled a little, and then decided, okay I'm really happy at home, so I'm going to whistle while I work at the office. Oh, good morning everyone, I'm a good guy now. Wait, bad guy coming over? Take out the gun, dim the lights, wait for him. Sound of glass crashing - how did we know who broke what and when? - and then oh hi everyone, a prowler came into my house.

 

I guess the movie was more interesting than I thought it was.

 

I agree with your take here, especially related to the Powell character.    In order to get his life back in order he was willing to kill someone.   So his thinking was like:  Well I don't want the wife to find out,  so it would that means killing someone,  oh well!

 

But as you note it is actions like this that make the movie interesting.   

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Well Scott's character in the movie got more than ONE item and some like the boat were expensive items.

 

So yea, we have a much different viewpoint on what defines a decent person.   Not being well off doesn't justify commiting crimes IMO.

 

Scott simply doesn't ask questions about the source of the gifts. That hardly constitutes committing a crime.

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Scott simply doesn't ask questions about the source of the gifts. That hardly constitutes committing a crime.

 

Sorry,  but you don't understand the law.   (not the law in movies but the actual law).    Accepting stolen goods when there is a reasonable expectation the goods are stolen,  is committing a crime.     This is why I made the joke about her boyfriend being a waiter.     i.e. if one receives gifts that are way beyond the means of the person giving the gifts,  and those gifts are stolen property that is commiting a crime;   the crime of receiving and storing stolen items.

 

But back to the movie:   This is noir; one of the most common themes in noir is that the people living on the edge (not bad people, per se,  but people that associate with bad people),   end up getting the short end of the stick (i.e. a punishment that does NOT fit their 'crimes').    So Scott's character can't be an angel type person (like Powell's wife).     But I do want to make this clear:  She isn't really bad,  and one could say her overall persona is that of a good person,  but she did enough bad things to cause bad things to happen to her in the world of noir.    I feel Scott was the perfect actress for her role since she gives off the 'women on the edge' vibe very well.

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