Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
King Brothers Productions
#216 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Bart: Some guys are born clowns.
Bluey-Bluey: You were born dumb.
The roots of film noir are in low-budget pictures – those shadows and locations disguise shoestring sets. Gun Crazy is one of the classics coming from outside the studio system. It was selected for the National Film Registry in 1998.
Bart Tare has been obsessed with guns since he was a child. The mania extends only to shooting – he cannot kill a living thing. He finally succumbs to the temptation to steal a revolver when he is an adolescent and is caught and put in reform school. After serving a stint in the military as a shooting instructor, Bart returns to his home town. He meets up with his childhood friends – now a reporter and a sheriff – and they go to a carnival where they see a shooting exhibition by the lovely Annie Laurie Starr.
It is love at first sight for Bart and Laurie, who flirt while they compete at target shooting. The couple soon marry and Laurie immediately starts agitating to exploit their expertise in stick-ups. Bart is the more timid of the two but he is hooked on Laurie and afraid to lose her so he agrees. So begins a life of crime reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde. With John Dall as Bart, Peggy Cummins as Laurie, and Russ Tamblyn as the young Bart.
Peggy Cummins is the standout in this movie. She is resembles a wild cat in heat as the femme fatale who tempts Bart to his doom and when she is frightened she is like a caged animal. The visuals, lit by cinematographer Russell Harlan, are gorgeous. So are the compositions director Joseph H. Lewis comes up with. The script is serviceable, if not brilliant or particularly hard-boiled. One of the screenwriters was “Millard Kaufman”, a front for Dalton Trumbo who was a blacklisted member of the Hollywood Ten.
I had not noticed before how often John Dall appears to squint. Odd in a supposed sharp-shooter!
Clip – “flirting with guns”