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 return of variously shell-shocked, amnesiac or otherwise afflicted soldiers from the front precipitated a spate of postwar movies purporting to delve into the mysteries of the human psyche. In most cases, psychology was presented either as a sinister black art (to be viewed with the utmost suspicion) or in a laughingly simplistic way. The Dark Past, grindingly earnest, opts for the latter path. Wrong'un William Holden, visibly chafing under the constraints of the script, invades a home and holds its occupants -- family and guests -- hostage. He has the bad luck to find among them psychoanalyist Lee J. Cobb, puffing away at the inevitable pipe, who turns the ordeal into a teaching opportunity. Slowly he breaks down Holden's wall of defenses, until a childhood memory emerges....This Freudian breakthrough, of course, occurs in record time, though for viewers it may seem like a big chunk of eternity. Mercifully, Adele Jergens sashays in and out a few times to lower the picture's tone to tolerable. The Dark Past is a period-piece, of some interest to fans of the noir cycle, but its stagey insights and dated dramaturgy have not aged gracefully.
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