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A bank heist yields $210,000. Soon, sultry Lona McLane, girlfriend of one of the robbers, meets Paul Sheridan and has a torrid affair. When she finds out Paul's a cop, to save herself she sets out to corrupt him. He's a pushover. But it won't be easy for Paul to get his hands on the money when he's part of a complex, peeping-tom stakeout. Soon, he's in much deeper than he'd planned, amid atmospheric night scenes.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
In some ways a perfect crime/noir film, though vaguely unoriginal, too.
An early widescreen black and white film noir gem. It comes late in the noir cycle but it crackles with precision and sharp acting. Though the details of the plot differ, it is an obvious echo of "Double Indemnity" with the leading man, played again by Fred MacMurray, sucked into a risky plot for big money and alluring love. And of course things don't go as planned.
MacMurray is an interesting choice in both films, because he really is more of an everyman than a noir type. Noir types are variable, I know, but you can range from Mitchum to Bogart to Dana Andrews to a whole bunch of minor actors who all have a kind of coolness or hardness to them, and you never see a regular fellow like MacMurray (the closest might be Mickey Rooney, of all people, in a neglected oddball noir, the 1950 "Quicksand"). MacMurray would later find his true calling as the dad in "My Three Sons" but when you see him in these early film roles there is something wrong and some perfect about his presence.
I don't mean to neglect the femme fatale here, a young Kim Novak, in her first full role. She's terrific, really, a bit cool (which was her style) but more convincing, to me, than her more famous appearance across from Sinatra in "Man with the Golden Arm." Maybe it's partly how well matched she is as an actress to MacMurray, though if there is a flaw to the film , it might be the unlikeness of these two falling in love, even with $210,000 to persuade them. But love is love and who's to say? The two of them, often playing in separate scenes (talking on the phone, or MacMurray watching her through binoculars), make this a full blooded drama as well as a crime noir.
The pace and editing of this movie, and the script and story, are perfect. It's easily the kind of film you could study for its structure, and for the writing, which isn't filled with noir doozies but with believable fast lines between two people looking to get through a growing debacle. It's a conventional structure, but its precision is comparable (for its precision) to "The Killing," that famous Stanley Kubrick film from 1956. And if it isn't as inventive, and if it lacks that amazing ending, "Pushover" is resilient because it is so reasonable. It could very well happen, and these relatively ordinary types (Novak being admired for her looks, but there are lots of lookers like her out there, especially gangster's girls) make it all the more compelling.
The filming is great, Lester White not known in particular in the cinematography world but shot a whole slew of decent and unamazing westerns (as well as the Ida Lupino "Women's Prison" which has it moments). Little known director Richard Quine made lots of lightweight and comic fare (he worked a bit with both Blake Edwards and Mickey Rooney, then later with Jack Lemmon) and this might be his most serious 1950s film, in tone. It's certainly the kind that you can't look away for a second because it clips along without a lull for an hour and a half.
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