You can’t escape your past!
Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) would rather forget his past. He has a pretty good life in small town Bridgeport, California. He’s even caught the eye of pretty Ann Miller.
Unfortunately for him, that past catches up with him in the form of Joe Stefanos. An old “friend” who’s very eager to reacquaint Jeff with a few other former friends. After the two meet, the film moves back in time to what exactly Jeff was hiding out from.
I can’t really go into too much detail without spoiling a lot of the film. Basically his past as a private investigator includes a dangerous beauty, a life on the run, a dead partner and an angry gambler missing $40,000 that said beauty stole from him. Jeff made the mistake of falling for her and running away with her. When they’re caught, she plays him like the proverbial cheap violin.
Back in the present, Jeff is forced into a meeting with his old pals. Much to his surprise he finds Kathie (the femme fatale) back with Whit (the gambler she cheated). He is soon told that the only way to square things is to do a job for Whit and his organization.
Based on the book Build My Gallows High (a much more fitting title IMHO) Out Of The Past is a very dark film noir story about a man who is desperate to escape a shadowy past. But finds himself dragged back into it.
This is not an easy film. There is a lot going on throughout the story and it’s easy to miss something if you’re not paying careful attention. I actually had to re-watch this one because of multiple modern day distractions during the first viewing.
Robert Mitchum is his usual self in this role. The slouching, low key persona typical of him fits what I would think of as a cautious man trying to hide out. Jane Greer is spectacular as the devious and dangerous Kathie, one of the more notable femme fatales of film noir. Also watch for Kirk Douglas as he makes an appearance in one of his first feature films.
The cinematography is beautiful, with a varied range of sets and spectacular outdoor shots. I can definitely see why this is a favorite among film fans.
Verdict 3.5 gavels out of 5 Difficult, but rewarding film noir with a terrific cast. Slow build up and a convoluted plot make this one a bit difficult for some. Highly recommended if you like a good film noir or mystery.