Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 303: Out of the Past (1987) - Rank 4/5


Robert Mitchum stars in this dark and twisted tale about buried pasts and meticulously planned vengeance. While he can't outdo his quintessential and haunting performance in "Night of the Hunter," he still turns in a solid performance as Jeff Bailey...or is it Markham? The clarification of Jeff's identity is merely the tip of the iceberg when he is spotted by an old crony and learns that his last boss, an incendiary rogue named Whit (Kirk Douglas) has been wanting to meet with him for some time. Shortly thereafter, Jeff and his girlfriend embark to a trip to Lake Tahoe to visit Whit and along the way, Jeff recounts the sordid affair of his previous life that made him flee into hiding and warns her about the demons he will have to face when he picks his former persona up at the end of the ride.

This is a dark, but wonderfully intriguing tale filled with the usual murder, backstabbing, adultery, setups and blackmail a good film noir possesses. Sure, the plot has more twists than "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" has comedian cameos, but I'll be damned if it doesn't draw you further in to the mystery of the film instead of leaving you confused. Kirk Douglas is delightfully nasty, so much so that you hold your breath when Jeff meets him in Lake Tahoe for the first time since his hiatus, half expecting Whit to unload a couple of slugs into the disgraced detective. Mitchum turns in an equally stellar and hypnotic performance that reminds you why he achieved leading man status despite his unusual countenance. And then there's Jane Greer as the femme fatale who has both Jeff and Whit all out of sorts, and to be quite frank, who can blame them? For a dame like that, I'd throw some of my scruples out the window too.

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