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Danny Hawkins, who lives in a psychological shadow because his father died by a hangman's noose, accidentally kills a man in a fight over a girl, Gilly Johnson, and is afraid to notify the police. He wins the love of the girl but when she tries to influence him to admit his guilt, he runs away. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Surprisingly dark and effective story told with atmospheric direction and a great performance from Dane Clark
Danny Hawkins is still suffering from a traumatic childhood where he was teased and bullied relentlessly because his father had killed a man and been executed. Decades after leaving school Danny is throw into a state of temporary rage when another man (Jerry Sykes) makes fun of him for this very reason and from the resulting struggle he kills Jerry. Instantly regretting it, he is placed under suspicion and tries to escape but only finds himself trapped in more than one way by his crime and that of his father.
From the title alone I had no specific hopes for this film other than just using it to fill a bit of time while I did some ironing. However, once it opens with a well-directed and atmospheric moment of madness crossed with flashbacks I was taken by it and held with it even if it never consistently reached that height again. The plot is straightforward but has some surprisingly dark elements within it that make it worth seeing. The haunted character of Danny is the main reason that it is interesting, whether it be in the dialogue or in the visual touches (such as Danny and the raccoon coming face to face with much shared emotion).
Of course a big part of this working was a great performance from Clark who really gets into his character and dominates the film in an impressive manner. His performance is also helped by the good direction that frames interesting shots throughout the film, is imaginative when it needs to be and uses shadows really well; only in the final few minutes did I feel it lost this tone and delivered a morally satisfying that was required by the period. Support playing from Russell, Barrymore and others is OK but nobody really gets close to Clark; that said, it is amusing to see early appearances from Bridges and Morgan in small roles.
Overall this is an enjoyable film that feels quite imaginative despite its rather straightforward narrative on the surface. The direction produces a good atmosphere and clever shots while the material has a moral darkness and complexity to it that works well even if it does tend to chicken out near the end. All this is delivered really well by Clark who eats up the scenery in some scenes while also being able to internalise a lot of stuff surprisingly well for what came across as a rather low budget affair. Worth seeing for what it does well.
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