Tuesday, June 9, 2009

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (Frank Tuttle, 1942, USA) Raven migrates towards Los Angeles, vengeance on his mind and hot metal in his hand, his cold blood warmed by a love that can be nevermore. Alan Ladd as Philip Raven the mechanical murderer, a man of seemingly nihilistic qualities, gives an excellently nuanced performance, balancing his callous nature with a subtle smile and tender feline touch. Ladd’s inherent innocence shines like a beacon from the visage of this stone-faced sociopath, a man who kills for a paycheck and isn’t adverse to shooting anyone who gets in the way of his contract. Graham Greene’s colloidal subterfuge never truly mixes into a believable plot, relying on too many contrived circumstances, but the quicksilver pacing and taut dialogue elevate this deadly melodrama to a poetic polemic. Director Frank Tuttle focuses his attention upon the drop-dead gorgeous Veronica Lake, submerging the audience beneath her riptide of sexuality: he utilizes two song-and-dance routines which are narratively insouciant and serve no purpose except to relegate Miss Lake to showpiece. To her credit, she fosters a sympathetic and gentle character in Ellen Graham: a woman who must lie to her fiancé and who sees the good in the doomed dark Knight; a woman who must sacrifice everything for her country in its dire time of need. Finally, Raven’s eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming, and the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; and his soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor…shall be lifted, nevermore! (A)

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