director Jacques Tourneur
Considered by some to be the archetype of the Film Noir, Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past has long been a personal favorite of mine as well. I’m a big Tourneur fan in general, but like a lot of things, I got turned onto this film, Tourneur, and a lot of other cinema from the half year I spent in Sheffield, England.
I was staying with the woman that I would eventually marry and three other young schoolteachers. But I was on a tourist visa, no way to work or go to school, just washing the dishes, reading a lot, and watching a lot of telly. Of course, four channels in the UK at the time still broadcast a lot better stuff than hundreds plus do on cable over here. And for my luck, it was 1995, the centennial of cinema, and so both the BBC and Channel 4 had tons of great stuff showing day and night throughout. And with only The Guardian‘s short blurbs to guide me, I discovered any number of those things in those months.
Across the pond, Out of the Past is known as Build My Gallows High, adapted by author Daniel Mainwaring from his novel of the same name. With Robert Mitchum as the retired gumshoe who is re-embroiled in his old life by affable villain Kirk Douglas, and gorgeous femme fatale, Jane Greer, it’s set up and down in California, Arizona, Mexico, and Lake Tahoe, a true West Coast noir.
I don’t know what else to add to what others have written about the film. It had been some while since I’d last seen it, which I think was at the Roxie Theater some years back. I guess everyone has their favorite noirs. My other two would probably be Edgar Ulmer’s Detour (1945) and Robert Siodmak’s Phantom Lady (1944), though as much noir as I’ve seen, I’m constantly reminded how much more of it there is. Still, this is one with which you cannot go wrong.