Motor mechanic Dan Brady lacks funds for a heavy date with new waitress Vera, the type whose life's ambition is a fur coat; so he embezzles twenty dollars from his employer. To make up the shortage, he goes in debt for a hundred. Thereafter, every means he tries to get out of trouble only gets him deeper into crime, while everyone he meets is out for what they can get. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A crunchy little B movie with a candied film noir coating but a melodrama center.
Quicksand is immediately at pains to establish that auto-mechanic Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney) is a *very* average guy, there's no monotone narrator to say, "Be careful or this may happen to you" but there might as well be. The first fifteen minutes or so drag along interminably through a lunch-counter and a mechanic shot before Dan "borrows" a twenty from the register to take a blonde out dancing, thus beginning a brief but intense criminal career.
Rooney is surprisingly convincing as the dissatisfied, and really quite dishonest, mechanic. He doesn't try anything cute, playing this role as straight as any I've ever seen out of him (admittedly not much), though his "inner monologue" narration rapidly wears out its welcome. Despite his being set up as an everyman character, I found him pleasingly sneaky, cowardly, and unlikeable.
The afore-mentioned blonde is Vera Novak (Jeanne Cagney). Brady has already been provided with a self-sacrificing brunette good girl that he's trying to get rid of, so right away you know that the only question you've got to answer about the blonde Vera is whether she's a broad, a dame, a floozie, or a hussy (turns out she's two of the four, but I'll let you find out which). Cagney is really only passable as the manipulative, materialistic, femme fatale.
Peter Lorre shows up, barely, as Nick, the crooked owner of a penny arcade where Vera once worked. Lorre and Rooney engage in some minor fisticuffs over Cagney (who must have been thinking that her brother could take them both with one hand tied behind his back).
After the tepid opening Quicksand actually does build up a decent head of steam as Dan Brady sinks deeper and deeper into the eponymous morass. It's clearly a written-to-order morality play but it moves quickly, punches hard enough to get the job done, and isn't entirely unbelievable. In the end melodrama beats film noir by a nose, or is it a couple furlongs? I couldn't help thinking Quicksand zigged when it should have zagged.
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