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    Out Of The Past [24] -1947-

    Movie Reviews
    Out of the Past is a very stark black and white movie. Backlighting and shadows are everywhere. Everything is done at night. Robert Mitchum is the Archetypical detective, Jeff Bailey, (AKA Jeff Markham in his past life). He is costumed in fedora hat and trench coat. Kirk Douglas plays Whit Sterling, a very smooth criminal boss. We really do not know what he does, but he is rich. Whit has a nasty girlfriend, named Kathie Moffat. Moffat shot Whit four times, but failed to kill him. Markham was contracted to find Moffat and also recover the $40,000 she stole. Markham pursues her to Acapulco and then falls in love with her instead of bringing her back. The two lovers then fled to California together. That is where the past catches up with Markham.

    This then, is Film Noir. According to the site, this is the archetypical Film Noir. Bad guys, Bad girls, vice, killings, crime and harsh lighting all add up to Film Noir ("Black Film"). I would have to say that the film stock itself would probably appear very black with strongly etched light areas.

    The one thing that sets this movie apart is the smoking. The sheer volume of smoking is staggering. People living in cities or states where smoking is banned in public places will look at this movie and wonder "Did people really smoke that much?" The movie is so rife with smoking, that it could almost be called an ad for the cigarette industry. Robert Mitchum turns his head and exhales huge clouds of smoke. His exhaling tells you whether he is worried, angry, or cool as a cucumber. Kirk Douglas tells his thug to "smoke a cigarette" to calm down. When Douglas and Mitchum meet up again in the present:

    Whit Sterling (Douglas): "Cigarette?"
    Jeff Markham (Mitchum): [lifts hand revealing lit cig]: "Smoking."

    The cigarette gets a lot of prop time in this movie along with other smoking accessories like lighters, matches, packs, and boxes. Not one person plays with their cigarettes by tapping the packs or filters. No one puts them behind their ears, rolls them in their sleeves, or twiddles them in their fingers. Cigarettes are for conspicuous consumption in this movie. Any cigarette that makes an appearance will be dragged down to the butt straight into someone’s lungs. No wisp of smoke gets wasted in the ashtray. Mitchum's character sometimes even turns his head sideways to exhale smoke, seemingly to avoid walking into the giant cloud, but probably more for effect into a "thought bubble" next to him.

    Smoking is what brought this film to my attention. Roger Ebert panned the film "200 Cigarettes" * by stating that the director should have studied the technique for filming smoke from Out of The Past - ("the greatest cigarette-smoking movie of all time. The trick, as demonstrated by Jacques Tourneur and his cameraman, Nicholas Musuraca, is to throw a lot of light into the empty space where the characters are going to exhale. When they do, they produce great white clouds of smoke, which express their moods, their personalities and their energy levels. There were guns in ``Out of the Past,'' but the real hostility came when Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoked at each other. ") I read that review and made a mental note to see this movie if I could ever catch it on TV.

    The DVD of Out of The Past was recently released (summer 2004). It includes a voice-over comment track by James Ursini, noted Film Noir expert. (Note: I happened to catch that Mr. Ursini went to the UCLA film school and has an MA and Doctorate. I highly recommend listening to the commentary after watching the movie once.)

    I will say now that Film Noir is not my cup of tea. But this is still a movie done well. The double-crossing-within-double-cross in the plot makes for good suspense. I recommend that anyone not familiar with Film Noir pick up this movie to help them become an instant expert. It will be popular topic on the cocktail party scene. {BB}

    *This review appeared in the book "I Hated Hated Hated HATED This Movie" by Roger Ebert.

    Added: July 26th 2004
    Reviewer: BB
    29 Point Scale Score: 24    [24]

    Related Link (IMDB): IMDB
    Hits: 5912
    Language: english


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