A husband and wife robbery team go Gun Crazy!
Bart Tate has always had a fascination for guns, his family and friends would describe it as an obsession. This obsession first gets him in trouble when he steals a gun from a hardware store and ends up in a reform school. After a stint in the army he meets trick shooter Annie Starr, a lady with an equally strong fascination for firearms. Unlike Bart, she is equally fascinated with crime and killing. She soon pressures him into joining her in a life of crime.
Gun Crazy is a film noir notable for its strong femme fatale protagonist. Annie is definitely the leader and driving force in this film. Bart and the audience are just along for the ride most of the time. The most he can do is temper some of her worst impulses as their crime spree spreads towards the border with Mexico. This makes for an interesting contrast to most films of this era. Women were rarely allowed to play strong roles in action films at the time, let alone as pistol packing villains.
The lighting and cinematography are in the classic film noir style. The long take bank heist scene and the final scene in the marshes are standouts. The story moves along at a decent pace and is well written. Not surprising, since the actual author of the screenplay was blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, one of the best wordsmiths in the business. The story seems to be loosely based on the story of real life criminal super-stars Bonnie and Clyde but with a few twists of its own.
The sound and musical score are actually very good for a lower budget film of the era. The plot is somewhat predictable due to the fact that Hollywood at the time still didn’t allow for “bad guys” to have happy endings, so the ultimate fate of the deadly couple is predetermined. But even with that limitation, this is a very well made and entertaining film. Stars Peggy Cummins and John Dall do a good job showing the manic and somewhat disturbing attractions of the two characters, both to each other and the various forms of mayhem they are interested in.
Verdict: 4 gavels out of 5
Great film noir caper with a strong female lead. Dark, well written story and engaging characters make this one a classic in the film noir genre.