With its convoluted storyline, shadowy cinematography and iconic femme fatale, Out of the Past is a superb example of classic film noir.
The past life of small-town gas pumper and former detective Jeff Bailey catches up with him when he is ordered to meet with gambler Whit Sterling. En route to the meeting, Jeff tells girlfriend Ann his story. Once, Jeff was a private eye detective hired by Whit to find his former mistress Kathie, who shot Whit absconding with $40,000. Jeff traced Kathy to Acapulco where the pair embarked on a love affair and fled. Back in the present day, Whit’s new job for Jeff is clearly a trap.
Chosen for My Noir by
Roger Garcia, Director of Hong Kong Film Festival; and Jason Wood, Director of Programming at Curzon Cinemas who says:
“French émigré director Jacques Tourneur teases out the European influence on the genre in one of the quintessential noirs of the 1940s. In my personal favourite of his performances, Robert Mitchum plays a small town garage owner whose cosy domesticity is destroyed when a cutthroat gangster hires him to track down a duplicitous moll. Narrated in flashback, the film shows how a potent cocktail of sex, filthy lucre and deceit soon has Mitchum falling head over heels in love with an apple rotten to the core. Adapted from the novel by Daniel Mainwaring, the film is also known as Build My Gallows High, one of a number of immortal lines offered by Mitchum’s sleepy-eyed character. The chiaroscuro cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca who also collaborated with Tourneur on 1942’s incredibly erotic Cat People is superb. The film contains my favourite exchange in screen history when Gree’s character tells Mitchum that she doesn’t want to die. His reply? ‘Neither do I baby but if I have to I wanna die last’.”