Watched: January 08 2017
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald
Runtime: 1h 7min
Al Roberts (Neal) is in a diner, irritable and not very sociable. What has happened? He tells his story to the viewer – and it is not a happy tale.
Roberts is a pianist in a nightclub where his best gal Sue (Drake) is also employed as a singer. Walking home from work one night, through the (extreme) fog and darkness, she tells him that she’s planning on seeking her fortune in Hollywood. Roberts is not happy about it, though to be fair, he wasn’t exactly a ball of sunshine before she broke the news either.
After she moves, he decides to hitchhike from New York to Los Angeles to see her, and it’s all downhill from there. He considers himself lucky when he gets a ride from rich (and misogynistic) Charles Haskell, Jr (MacDonald), but he could not be more wrong. After Haskell unexpectedly dies, Roberts makes a horrible decision to bury the body and pose as the dead man to stay out of trouble. Already here, we can see where this is going, but not just how bad it’s going to get.
Enter Vera (Savage), a bona fide Dame with all the credentials, including previously fighting off the advances of the now deceased real owner of the car. His new angry and disillusioned passenger leads Roberts to make even more terrible decisions than the ones he’s already made, and they keep spiralling towards inevitable doom.
Now, Roberts is made out to be the victim in this film, and in a way he is. However, he is also the one telling the story and as such there’s a chance his narration is a bit on the unreliable side. Perhaps Haskell’s death (and any subsequent ones) weren’t as accidental as he claims, and his decision to rob the dead man may not have been as spontaneous as we are led to believe. Either way, his life is forever altered and his plans are not to be. Poor Sue.
What we learned: Film Noir-narration is the best narration. Also, if someone (accidentally) dies in your presence, just go to the police and fess up at once.
Next time: The Lost Weekend (1945)