Gabby lives and works at her dads small diner out in the desert. She can't stand it and wants to go and live with her mother in France. Along comes Alan, a broke man with no will to live, who is traveling to see the pacific, and maybe to drown in it. Meanwhile Duke Mantee a notorious killer and his gang is heading towards the diner where Mantee plan on meeting up with his girl.Written by
Allegorical Depression-era drama is stagy but effective
The Petrified Forest is a social allegory that's the product of the Great Depression. Although not as brutal and seemingly spontaneous as its later noir cousin, John Huston's Key Largo (1948), there's something romantic about a group of characters, plucked from the various facets of American society, who, by some inexplicable fate, come to meet in a greasy spoon in the middle of the Arizona desert where their destinies are played out.
The diner is almost another dimension, separated from the America of the Great Depression. The social obligations, classes and morality of the characters are forgotten, leaving only the base substance of the human being, who yearns for love, loyalty, truth and freedom. Howard's intellectual pauper, Davis' waitress dreamer and Tobin's upper-crust snob are put on the same human level as Bogart's cold-blooded killer, and the result is the drawing out of the true personality of the individual, not the group whom the individual represents.
Written for the stage, the material is naturally stagy, taking place, for the most part, in the eating area of the diner. But director Archie Mayo uses the layered staging of actors and the camera frame to create instant relationships between the various characters, as well as dimensions on the dialogue being spoken. Unfortunately in his search cinematic quality, at times he is almost forcing the lines down the our throat through the use of POV.
Still, the material holds up well in spite of the dated quality, and The Petrified Forest ranks as a top-notch and literate crime drama with an eclectic cast of characters and dramatic tension that holds your attention.
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