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When a detective scoffs at his suggestion that an 18 year-old criminal be referred for psychiatric examination Dr. Andrew Collins, the police psychiatrist, tells him the story of his encounter with Al Walker. Walker had a history of violence and killed the prison warden during an escape. He and his gang took the Collins family and their friends hostage but when Dr. Collins learns that Walker has a violent recurring dream, he offers to help him decipher the dream and determine exactly what has driven him to a life of crime and violence. Written by
[Referring to Stevens]
How's the tough guy? Is he behaving?
He's talking business. He wants to make a deal. He thinks his life is worth money.
How much did he offer... two bucks?
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The Dark Past is directed by Rudolph Maté and adapted by Malvin Wald, Oscar Saul, Philip MacDonald, Michael Blankfort and Albert Duffy from the play Blind Alley written by James Warwick. It stars William Holden, Nina Foch, Lee J. Cobb, Adele Jergens, Stephen Dunne and Lois Maxwell. Music is by George Duning and cinematography by Joseph Walker.
Al Walker Breaks Jail!
One from a number of classic era Hollywood's ventures into Freudian thrillers. Here we have Holden as escaped convict Al Walker, who along with his loyal crew hold hostage psychologist Dr. Andrew Collins (Cobb) and his guests at the doctor's remote country retreat. With Walker clearly unstable of mind and often showing a cold blooded streak, the good doctor, the calmest man in the house, slowly tries to draw out of Walker the root of his murderous leanings.
James Warwick's play had already had a film adaptation in 1939 as Blind Alley (Charles Vidor), but such was the advent of film noir and crime films of similar ilk, the source material was ripe for a remake in the late 40s. Maté's film is doubly reliant on strong acting performances and strength of subject matter, the former is no problem at all, with Cobb methodically excellent, Holden twitchy and coiled spring like and Foch smooth foil for both of them.
The latter issue isn't totally successful, though, the picture is very talky anyway, but much of the psycho-babble talk about conscious states, dreams, sensor bands and damage childhoods is handled so matter of fact, it's never really convincing as narrative thrust and it slow builds to a finale that lacks dramatic oomph. It's annoying really because Maté paints it in light and shade and a dream sequence, stripped back to negative form, is surreal excellence and befitting the interesting core basics of the psychological issues on the page.
It's definitely worth a look by those interested in the Freud influenced entries in the film noir cycle, while fans of hostage dramas like The Desperate Hours and The Petrified Forest will enjoy the character dynamics on show. But it's not all it can be and the handling of the crime and mental health equation is just too short changed to matter. 6.5/10
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