A man and a woman arrive in a cafe-hotel near the Belgian frontier. The customers recognize the man from the police description. His name is Amedee Lange, and he murdered Batala in Paris. ... See full summary »
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>
Amazing visuals, rich night scenes, a terrific psychological dilemma
A small rural town is the setting for a man struggling with an ambiguous crime he has committed. It's a psychologically loaded movie, and the clues start with the first abstract frames and last through every scene to the end. There is enough simplifying going on to keep it from being a classic or having the inventive flair of some contemporaries (or like "Night of the Hunter" a few years later), but I was impressed again in this second viewing.
One of the strengths here is certainly the mood created by all the richly blackened night scenes, both in the town and in the woods. The camera moves with unusual elegance and boldness through the scenes, or you might say through the shadows. The heightened angles and lack of faces in the first few shots is a sign of the atmosphere to come.
The little known leading actor, Dane Clark, is almost perfect in his role, partly for doing a great job and partly for letting his awkwardness bleed through into the character's. You come to feel his circumstance as an utterly ordinary guy. The sheriff is a restrained character and the man's girlfriend has a wonderful simple presence as well.
The real meat of it all is the trauma this man goes through bearing the guilt of his actions. He isn't so much pursued as just haunted by the thought of being caught. It's like the secret we all have had at some point and we get away with it for awhile, but it wears you out from inside until something has to give. One of his solutions finally it to run for it, and he has one last turning point near the end with his grandmother played by Ethel Barrymore. The folksy philosophy gets a little thick, I suppose, but by this point you go along with it because it's true. And it's not what you might think.
If you don't like old movies this will feel clumsy at times. But if you do already have a hankering for film noir and other crime dramas, even ones with mostly unknown actors, give this a try. And keep your eyes open for some great photography by John Russell, who is as important as anyone in this production. On some level it's truly great stuff.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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