Out of the Past (1947)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur; written by Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay and novel)

“Did you miss me?”
“No more than I would my eyes.”

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An ex-P.I. (Robert Mitchum) is sent to track down the wayward girlfriend (Jane Greer) of his old boss (Kirk Douglas). He finds her, falls in love, and ends up in a complicated web of danger and deceit.

This movie is every bit the equal of Double Indemnity, until now my champion of film noir. There’s no victor emerging here, but one thing is clear: without these films, there’s no Aaron Sorkins or David Mamets. And without the Sorkins or Mamets, who’s going to teach screenwriters how to write?

With modern Hollywood being sex squeezed into negligees, the contrast of film noir femme fatales as personified danger and clothed in class is… black and white. This time our leading lady is sweet and innocent; sweet like sugar in the air, innocent like a librarian nun leading girl scouts. The danger surfaces later, as it does the day after your first cocaine binge. Sweet, innocent and deadly like a religious war or nuclear pocket rockets.

So you get this:

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If you don’t recognize this look, consider yourself quite lucky—you haven’t encountered a soul-swallowing monster. Nobody walks away from this, and those who survive, limp.

The transfer on the Blu-ray viewed was nothing short of spectacular. It’s a miracle this film looks as good as it does, and that miracle comes at the expense of a (very) large pile of cash from the studio and the meticulous fingers of a talented group of artists capable of restoring it to this extent. It snaps, crackles and pops, using a bitrate that should make modern studio blockbusters blush and quietly go home with their PIPs and puff pieces wasting valuable disc space. You cannot ask for better picture quality from this age than what you get here.

This is exactly the movie you want to watch if you’re new to film noir–it will knock you over.

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“I don’t want to die.”
“Neither do I, baby. But if I have to, I’m gonna die last.”

5 stars

sam_7963

2 thoughts on “Out of the Past (1947)

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  1. Great film with a great cast. Some of the best dialogue and wit. Tourneur is a true auteur and many of the best films of the era.

    1. Yep, the dialogue is just razor sharp. And the film continues to build in your mind long afterward. It’s certainly among the best noir I’ve seen. Maybe even the best.

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