After being released from hospital, a World War II veteran who's suffering from amnesia decides to return to Los Angeles to see if he can regain his identity. Retracing his former steps, he learns he was a gangster, and many wish he were dead....and some try to see to it.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts) drives a 1947 Cadillac Series 62 convertible; Nina Martin (Ellen Drew) drives a 1949 Ford Custom convertible coupe. See more »
The train depicted as taking Eddie from San Francisco (where Letterman Army Hospital was) to Los Angeles is actually a Pennsylvania Railroad streamlined K4 locomotive, shown on their three-track mainline. This shot has been used in other films. See more »
Enjoyable drama but the script and Payne fail to make good on the potential in the sweep of story and characters
War hero Eddie Rice returns to his home town as a result of a serious head injury that has left him with no real memory of who he is and nothing in his files that suggests where he should go. He decides to hang around ad hopefully meet someone he knows who will introduce him to another and another until his life is back in focus. What he doesn't reckon on though is that the first people to recognise him will be the police who don't buy the idea that violent hood Eddie Riccardi has "lost his memory". This is a sentiment that gangster Vince Alexander shares when he discovers that the man who turned states evidence against him is back in town.
An interesting concept in this film. The idea that a "war hero" comes back to discover that really he was a violent criminal, a man he himself would have disliked and that he has to deal with the consequences of a past that he has no recollection of. In theory it could have been tough and morally complex and indeed I was hoping that these aspects would make for a dark and strong crime drama. In a way the actual product was both satisfying and a bit disappointing. The plot provides some good drama. It doesn't all ring true and it lacks the moral uncertainty that I had hoped for but it does still work well enough for what it is. If anything the script doesn't totally deserve Florey as director because the latter does do a solid job of working in the shadows and of framing shots to maximise the darkness within them.
The script doesn't make this same effect work within the story or characters though and indeed ethically it is perhaps too simplistic, with Eddie himself being disappointedly disconnected from his past. Of course I have to acknowledge that in this regard John Payne is miscast. He never convinces as a man struggling with anything (other than a sleepy delivery) and there is never a connection to his past in anything he does. Contrast his performance (and indeed what this film does) with Mortensen in "A History of Violence" and you can see where he and the material really don't deliver all they could (should) have done. Tufts works better but in fairness perhaps has a simpler character to pull off. He is a typically tough bad guy, full of patience and menace in his delivery I liked his scenes but he conspires to make Payne seem weaker by comparison. Drew, Williams, Helton and others all do well enough for what is asked of them but the main expectation was on Payne and the film cannot shake the feeling that he is just not up to the task.
Overall then a solid enough drama but not up to the standard that it had the potential to be. Florey's direction works well with the cinematography (which is perhaps typical for the genre but still good) and it is just a shame that neither the script nor Payne are able to make more out of the potential within the sweep of the story and characters.
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