It’s with some reservation that I call Out of the Past a textbook film noir. All of the signature noir iconography is in the picture, of course: a virulent femme fatale, a terse detective, complex narrative structure, poetic voice-over narration, an overwhelming sense of doom, expressive photography, doppelgangers, and so on. But it's only in retrospect that we identify all of these motifs as being indicative of a “noir” style. What’s most fascinating about Out of the Past is its darkening mood and tone. By 1947, the fate of noir detectives had grown increasingly grim. In pictures like The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), and The Big Sleep (1946), the characterization is, as always, in the hard-boiled, anti-heroic tradition, but the noir hero is mostly in control in these films. The Sam Spades and Philip Marlowes prevail. As the years passed, however, the noir hero became more unhinged and self-aware. Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past is one of the pictures that helped pave the way for the crazed, heated-up noirs to follow in the coming years. One notable exception is Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944), which could contend with any noir picture for being the darkest and most sardonic.
The Heights Theater,
April 28, 7:30 pm
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Producer: Warren Duff
Writer: Daniel Mainwaring
Cinematographer: Nicholas Musuraca
Editor: Samuel E. Beetley
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb, Steve Brodie, Virginia Huston, Paul Valentine, Dickie Moore, Ken Niles
US Theatrical Release: November 13, 1947
US Distributor: Warner Bros.