This is one of Reed Ferguson’s favorites (with the exception of any Humphrey Bogart movie, of course). Out Of The Past is a classic 1947 film noir that stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer as the noir hero and femme fatale. And they nail the roles. This wonderfully dark and convoluted story is at its core a movie about a man revealing his dark past to his girlfriend. But it’s done so well!
Best of Film Noir – Doesn’t Mitchum Make a Great Noir Hero?
Robert Mitchum has always seemed like the swarthy heel to me. Even when he’s playing a good character, he seems so very bad :). Mitchum plays Jeff Markham, a former private investigator who gets involved with a bad woman (typical film noir, right?). Just when Markham thinks he’s escaped his dark past, it rises up to meet him again. If you watch this movie, you’ll notice that we know very little of why Markham did what he did. Normally, this lack of background could kill a characterization, but it works well here, due in great part to Mitchum’s performance.
Best of Film Noir – The Femme Fatale
Jane Greer plays Kathie Moffat, one of the greatest femme fatale’s in film noir history. Which is ironic considering many people don’t know of this film. Moffat is a beautiful, sexy, irresistible femme fatale. She is contriving and deadly, nothing short of a chameleon. All the elements of the classic femme fatale, and Greer plays the role to perfection. As in so many noir films, she is the cause of Markham’s downfall. Also noteworthy, Moffat is the cause of the racketeer Whit’s (Kirk Douglas in his fourth movie) fall as well.
Best of Film Noir – Classic Elements To Learn From
Out Of The Past is a great movie to learn about story and theme. Although its multi-layered structure can at times be confusing, it should be studied for its themes of betrayal and passion that are interwoven into the intricate plot. We can learn how to write twists and turns that keeps the reader (or viewer) on the edge, wondering what’s happening next and why. We see a character torn between an inescapable past and a future that will never be, and we ache for him, knowing that every move he makes is ultimately leading him on a path to destruction. We see characters with ambiguous pasts, and although we’re not sure what their motivations are, we care about them. That is great writing.
Best of Film Noir – A Movie Based On a Great Book
Out Of The Past was based on Geoffrey Homes’ 1946 novel Build My Gallows High (Homes’ real name was Daniel Mainwaring). It is noteworthy that Homes novel imitated Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. The movie was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who had previously directed horror films such as Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie. Tourneur brought his horror technique to play in Out Of The Past, creating a visually dark, shadowy mood of terror throughout the film. It is a compliment that many say that this movie has all the themes and tragic ending of a Shakespearean tragedy.
An interesting bit of trivia: this movie was remade in 1984 as Against All Odds, with Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges. It is considered a vastly inferior movie to the original. Jane Greer plays the mother of her original character (Kathie Moffat) in Out Of The Past.
So grab your popcorn and soda, get comfy and tune in to Out Of The Past. You won’t regret it.
If you enjoy film noir, you’ll enjoy reading my Reed Ferguson mystery series. Reed is a wannabe private eye who loves film noir and crime fiction, and these mystery novels are consistently well-reviewed: This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies, Reel Estate Rip-off, and the short story Elvis And The Sports Card Cheat.
5 Star Review
There is little doubt that Renée Pawlish is a promising new voice to the comic murder/mystery genre. Quite noticeable…is Pawlish’s adept development of the plot coupled with her ability to contrive clear, concise and playful prose with almost perfect pacing.
Norman Goldman, Bookpleasures Publisher and Editor