Robert Mitchum stars in "Out of the Past" as Jeff Bailey. As the film opens, he is the owner of a small town gas station; he's romancing a beautiful girl (Virginia Huston) and his life seems idyllic. However, a stranger arrives looking for Bailey, and everything changes irrevocably. The story is told partially in flashback - enumerating his past with a cutthroat gangster (Kirk Douglas) and a mysterious moll (Jane Greer) - and partially in the present as his past ensnares him into a complicated morass of murder and revenge.
"Out of the Past" is a quintessential 1940s film noir, right up there with "Double Indemnity" and "The Maltese Falcon," although it's arguably not as well known as those classics. The script is whip-smart and filled with brilliant dialogue - a character asserts to Bailey, "Don't you see you've only me to make deals with now?" and Bailey shoots back, "Build my gallows high, baby." Each scene is perfectly shot with an abundance of ambience; director Jacques Tourneur specialized in moody films, such as "I Walked with a Zombie," and he certainly scores here. The plot is full of crosses and double-crosses - it's admittedly not one of the most complex film noirs; however, the characters are perfectly etched, and the film builds to a heartbreaking conclusion.
In 1991, "Out of the Past" was inducted into the National Film Registry, which protects important American films. The film clearly deserves this honor and fortunately will be preserved for future generations of film noir fans. Overall, "Out of the Past" is one of the best film noirs I've seen and a top-notch movie in every way. Most highly recommended.
DVD extras: the main extra is a somewhat dry but informative commentary by James Ursini, an author noted for writing about film noir.
This is one of the best examples of Film Noir ever produced. Everything about the production is dark and troubling, yet so fascinating that you can't turn away. The trio of Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas are central to the plot, and all are brilliant in their roles. Mitchum is perfect as the cool and smart former Private Investigator turned gas station owner who finds out that he still has entanglements from his previous life, Kirk Douglas is the absolute embodiment of a cold, calculating career criminal, and beautiful Jane Greer manages to ensnare everyone in her web of mystery and deceit.
This is the ultimate intellectual crime drama, and a viewing of this film could teach contemporary directors how suspense is supposed to be executed. The plot is so intricate and involved that I won't even discuss it, other than to say this: pay attention. The abrupt plot twists rarely, if ever, turn out like a first time viewer would expect, and the suspense created by director Jacques Tourneur is palpable.
The DVD is going to be released soon, and I will be sure to augment my VHS copy with the new DVD. This film really is one of the classics of American cinema, and is definitely as absorbing and engrossing as anything made in the last fifty years. For a wild and suspenseful ride, with a plot full of twists, turns, and surprises until the very end, don't miss "Out of the Past!"
on October 28, 1998
This classic film noir, featuring the twin cleft-chinned presences of
Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, has got to be one of the most
enjoyable ever made. It's not the somewhat confusing plot, but the
snappy dialogue -- and the confident acting -- which makes it work so
well. The repartee ("A woman with a rod is like a man with a
knitting needle") is worthy of some of the best screwball
comedies and yet it's just as dark as a noir should be in terms of the
desperate things the characters do and the terrible things that happen
to them as a consequence. Jacques Tourneur ("Cat People",
"I Walked With a Zombie") directs with finesse, but the
importance of an ace writer like James M. Cain ("The Postman
Always Rings Twice") -- uncredited for some reason -- can't be
stressed enough. He deserves as much credit for the success of the
film as Tourneur, Mitchum, Douglas, and shapely femme fatale Jane
Greer, the woman who seduces both Mitchum and Douglas -- rod in hand.
on April 21, 2002
Film Noir. It is an odd, misunderstood, somewhat underappreciated genre. The genre is also widespread, with dramas and even some comedies having elements of the genre. Which films are the best examples of this group? "The Maltese Falcon", "Double Indemnity" and "Chinatown" are certainly good choices, but what about "Out of the Past"? For one thing, it has everything that defines this dark, unorthodox genre. A private detective (Robert Mitchum's Jeff Markam, who goes under the alias Bailey), a female fatale (Jane Greer's Kathie Moffett), a dangerous yet charismatic bad guy (Kirk Douglas's Whit Sterling), memorable dialogue ("Baby, I don't care") and amazing cinematography, which combined with the direction can produce many stunning moments. My favorite is the scene where Jeff first goes to Whit's residence. He is actually outside the gate entrance, yet with the way shadows and lighting are used, it seems he could be standing inside. Another example is during the opening credits, when those of Producer Warren Duff and Director Jacques Tourneur are framed as though they are sitting next to the driver of a car.
The film has two other trademarks of film noirs. First the flashback. Here Jeff, who is now a gas station owner, tells his current girlfriend Anne about a business deal he made a few years back with Whit Sterling. Sterling was looking for his wife Kathie, who had recently tried to kill him and stole from him $40,000. Whit wants her back, yet says he doesn't want the money. He is obviously lying. He wants to see if he can use her, though he never states so. He also, as Jeff learned, knows that the forty grand is nothing compared with her. Jeff finds the girl in Mexico and trouble begins. She kills a man named Fisher, who works for Sterling, while he was fighting Jeff (Another great visual image, for during the brawl the shadows across the room were lit up and looked like giants). As a result, she has to leave. Then the story goes back to the present, where Jeff meets Sterling and his apparent wife: Kathie. This is where the second trademark begins: Plot changing. I was able to keep up with the story for awhile, but I was eventually lost in a barrage of murders, double crosses and other twists and turns. But this is part of the fun of this and other film noirs. I dare anybody to logically be able to tell me the entire plot of "The Big Sleep".
I mentioned that this movie is full of great dialogue. Here are some of my favorites.
Jeff: My Name is Jeff Markam, and I haven't talked to anybody who hasn't tried to sell me something for ten days.
Jeff: I sell gasoline, I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living.
Whit: My feelings? About ten years ago, I hid them somewhere and haven't been able to find them.
Whit: I fire people but nobody quits me. You started this and you'll end it.
Jeff: That's one way to be clever. Look like an idiot.
"Out of the Past" is an overall great movie. For one thing, where else could you see Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, two top Hollywood stars of the late `40s-`50s? (And two of my favorite actors) Add in a beautiful Jane Greer, some style and wit and you'll want to add this to your collection. No film buff's library is complete without it.
on August 27, 2014
Anyone who had any doubts about the use of the Blu-ray format when it comes to old black and white films can put all those doubts away. Having just viewed Warner's new Blu-ray of Jacques Tourneur's "Out of the Past"(1947) I'm still overwhelmed by the absolute pristine video of this classic film noir now a part of Warner's Archive Collection. For those who might be concerned, this is "not" a DVD-R as are most of the titles in the WAC. Warner's has started to release some of it's classic films on Blu-ray through it's Archive Collection which have been previously released on standard DVD. That includes "Out of the Past" which was one of the five films in Volume One of it's "Film Noir Classics Collection" from ten years ago. But the difference between that DVD and this new Blu-ray is simply stunning. According to published reports, Warner's gave "Out of the Past" a very high bitrate(34.57) for this transfer and needless to say the results are astounding. It's simply beautiful. I don't know if the restoration team at Warner's had the original negative to work with but it sure looks like it. The cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca is not only enhanced on Blu-ray but probably hasn't looked this good since it's original theatrical run. The story is complicated(lots of twists and turns) but concerns a former private detective, played by Robert Mitchum(one of his best early performances) who is trying to live a quiet existence in order to break from his past life. However, other people have other ideas. That's all I'm going to say about the story. Jacques Tourneur's tight direction is heavy on mood development and it's those developments which makes this film one of the most stylish and interesting film noirs of all time. All this is brought to new life on Blu-ray with even the smallest details front and center. Blacks are very prominent, especially in the night scenes with shadows and lights never looking so good. Tourneur gives his actors lots of close-ups and this is really where the smallest details are evident. You can clearly see the perfectly combed hair on Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas' heads. The costumes and sets are more prominent and even the famous cigarette smoke(there's a lot of smoking) becomes part of each scene and takes on a life of it's own. There are no vertical lines, white specks, torn frames, or any other damage to the picture itself which makes viewing the film all the more enjoyable. As good as Mitchum is in his part, the film really belongs to Jane Greer who gives one of the great femme fatale performances in film noir history as Kathy Moffat. It's right up there with Barbara Stanwyck's performance as Phyllis Dietrichson in "Double Indemnity" and viewers will be just as shocked by the ending. The audio(DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono) has been improved also(you'll probably have to lower the volume on your remote) with dialogue and background noises being crystal clear. Location shots of Lake Tahoe, Mexico City and San Francisco are also sharp and clear. "Out of the Past" is 97 minutes(Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 and only contains the following subtitle: English SDH. Special feature include a commentary by film noir historian James Ursini(Note: the Blu-ray disc itself is housed in one of those eco-cutout cases so you may want to switch to more solid & sturdy Blu-ray case for added protection). If you love film noir then Warner's new Blu-ray of "Out of the Past" is essential to any film library or collection. Hopefully we'll see more film noir titles from the Warner vaults in the future. "Out of the Past" comes very highly recommended.
on May 7, 2005
That's the title of Lee Server's wonderful biography of Mitchum, and it may well be the most memorable of a wealth of unforgettable lines in this superbly crafted film.
The best and most definitive noir ever, substantially eclipsing even "Night and the City."
Jane Greer is one of the most beautiful, sultry, and alluring femme fatales to ever grace the screen, as well as a marvelous actress, and Howard Hughes should never be forgiven for depriving us of her for 5 years when he blackballed her from the industry after she resisted his advances.
[A classic example of this travesty is another Mitchum vehicle, "Where Danger Lives," which had a part ready made for Greer that instead went to Hughes' then recent protege, Faith Domergue, whose "acting" could have ruined a school play.]
Mitchum? What can you say? This is the role which defined his personna for the rest of his career. Trenchcoated, laconic, cynical, sarcastic, fatalistic, and certain of his own doom, he seems to have resigned himself to the fact that, no matter what he does, he can't escape the destiny which awaits him.
He's a clever enough fellow, and he really tries to do the right thing, but he just can't extricate himself from the net which has enveloped him ever since his first gaze upon Kathie Moffat (Greer).
The dialogue is very stylized but well worth quoting and re-quoting.
For example,an urbane hood, Joe Stefanos (Paul Valentine, the real life husband of Lili St. Cyr), walks into a downtown cafe in a small, pastoral village and starts to ask the girl behind the counter: "Tell me something. . . ."
Before he can finish, she says, "You don't look like I could."
That's where it begins.
The first half of the film, all told in flashback, is far more engaging than the second, as we watch Mitchum's "Jeff" become more and more ensnared in the web spun by the gorgeous but sociopathic Kathie.
She even describes herself as "No good," a characterization richly warranted and heartily concurred in by Mitchum.
He waits all evening for her in a bar simply because she had mentioned, "I SOMETIMES go there." As he downs shot after shot of Bourbon, he muses to us: "How big a chump can you be? I was beginning to find out."
This film also contains what may well be THE most romantic scene in cinematic history (with all due respect to Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr):
Jeff and Kathie sitting on an Acapulco beach at night, the wind blowing in her hair, as she (lying, as usual) beseeches Jeff:
"I didn't steal Whit's $40,000. Won't you believe me?"
To which Mitchum, eyes even droopier than usual, replies: "Baby, I don't care."
Even though he eventually discovers what she is and tells her so ["Get out. I have to sleep in this room;" "You're like a leaf that the wind blows from gutter to gutter"], one is left with the distinct impression that Jeff never truly escapes her spell.
A marvelous cast, including Steve Brodie ("Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye") as Jeff's doublecrossing ex-partner and John Kellogg ("The Enforcer") as of one of Whit's (Kirk Douglas') henchmen.
The film ends with Dickie Moore [Jeff's deaf mute friend and assistant) telling Jeff's "nice" girlfriend, Ann (Virginia Huston), that Jeff actually loved Kathie to the end.
Make of that what you will: Was he lying in order to convince Ann to move on with her life?
Or was he simply telling the truth that he understood better than Mitchum himself did?
Maybe, this movie was best described during its preview on TNT:
"It started out as a simple job. But it turned into a game of cross and double cross. Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer play a dangerous game of deceit in 'Out of the Past.'"
If one were marooned on an island with only 5 DVD's to watch over and over, this should definitely be one of them.
on January 10, 2001
The movie " Out of the Past " relates to the classic Film Nior in the purest of forms. The story centres around three central characters played by Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer & Kirk Douglas interestedly appearing in his second movie role . The supporting characters also add to the movie allowing the creation of a film classic rated 5 STAR all the way. The direction, cinematography, script, and acting are professionally brought together into a scheming mass of cross and double cross. The result a classic.
The outstanding character has to go to Kathie Moffit's [ Jane Greer] role as the feme fatele. Ms Greer without doubt acted her way through this picture taking command in all scenes making the others look ordinary even Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in this picture fall into second and third place behind this remarkable actress and brillant performance. Literally changing persons in each scene, soft beautiful mistress to a take control woman who simply manipulates the men in her life without thought or mercy. Mitchum is as always superb as the private detective who takes on a job [ told through flashback ] travels through Mexico and falls in love with the very subject he has set out to return to crime boss Whit Sterling played by Kirk Douglas. They escape from Acapulco to San Francisco hoping not to be discovered however, they are by Mitchum's former partner who follows the "Dame" to a small cabin where he is killed through a punch it out fist fight with Mitchum, only to be gunned down and murdered by Kathie Moffit. Mitchum is left to "Dump the Body " and assumes a new role in life one of a owner of a small town filling station. Once again he is discovered by Whit's connections and brought into the greatest double whammy of all time with murder and double cross cumulating in a surprising ending on a country road not unlike the Bonnie and Clyde movie some 15 years later.
Supporting roles add to the movie's success.
Virginia Houston playing Ann the country town girl dominated by her parents but falling for Robert Mitchum, the secretive "Jeff Bailey" alas Jeff Markam the guy who's wrong for her all the way.
Rhonda Fleming portrays a dishonest secretary who double deals, with her boss paying the price with his life and the "Set Up" to frame Robert Mitchum, her goal is to only get some fast cash not caring who she messes up along the way. Well played.
Dickie Moore plays the "KID" a deaf mute filling station attendant who has a strong loyalty to Mitchum that no words can describe. The kid shown in the opening scenes with gunmen Joe Stephanos[played by Paul Valentine] is being treated with disdain and arrogance. In the final scenes Joe tracks Robert Mitchum to an isolated fishing spot by following the KID and climbs to a high vantage point above the river to take aim with a his 45 automatic, he is pulled suddenly by the kid from the high ledge falling to his death in the river. The kid simply used his fishing line and hook to do the job saving Robert Mitchum.
This movie is wonderful in every aspect a great piece of Hollywood, great acting, suburb dialogue and the use of a simple story with plot and counter plot, hidden agenda's and the use of lighting and shadows to their fullest.
on July 8, 2004
This is without a doubt one of the best film noirs ever made, & with a very impressive cast. The director brilliantly cast Mitchum & Douglas as rivals & of course the beautiful yet deadly Jane Greer as the femme fatale. Mitchum is perfect as the private detective who loses control of his life after falling for Douglas' "girlfriend", played by Jane Greer. Douglas, although virtually unknown in Hollywood at the time of this film, also gives an incredible performance as a ruthless mobster determined to own Greer at all cost. I've seen dozens of film noirs but I can't think of one with as much snappy dialogue as this one. The screenwriter, Geoffrey Homes was truly gifted & made this film timeless. And of course, the talented Jacques Tourneur flawlessly directed this great classic & created one of the most memorable film noirs ever. The picture quality of the dvd is excellent & there's very informative commentary that helped me fully understand the complicated plot. This masterpiece is a must-have for any fan of film noirs. In fact, it'd be hard for anyone to not like this movie!
on March 30, 2001
Out of the Past... What can one say?... Just watch it late at nite like its meant to, everyone's asleep and it's four in the morning... Just like Mitchum looked in most of his best roles ...If you love old black and white movies like me, especially noir, this is one of the top ten movies of all time...Dialogue, Come on! Some of the best you'll ever hear. Photography, Ditto! Especially the rain scene in Mexico with the shadows of palms in the cabina...Sum it up, They don't make em like this anymore. Get it!!!
on December 27, 2001
One of the great things about RKO Studios was the manner in which it achieved optimum results with economical budgets. The Melrose Avenue studio turned out some of the greatest film noir suspense efforts of all time, and "Out of the Past" ranks with the very best.
The cornerstone of a great film begins with a solid script, and the scenario penned by Daniel Mainwaring adapted from his novel, "Build My Gallows High," using his pen name of Geoffrey Homes on each occasion, is packed with suspense and laced with biting dialogue. The two leads, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, represent letter perfect casting, while Kirk Douglas in completing the romance triangle also performs with convincing gusto. The 1947 release made immediate stars of all three performers.
With respect to the part of femme fatale Kathie Moffett, Jane Greer told me in an interview, "This is the kind of part an actress would die for. There is this great buildup where Kathie is being discussed over and over before she appears. It reminds me of the way that Paramount films would have a big buildup for Alan Ladd. It would make him look ten feet tall by the time he appeared on screen."
The Mitchum-Greer relationship is explosive throughout. Despite the double dealings of Greer's character Kathie, Jeff Markham-Bailey, played by Mitchum, despite his street smart cleverness, repeatedly succumbs to her seductive beauty. At one point Mitchum exclaims, "Ah, Kathie, you're so good at changing sides." The statement is completely accurate as she takes turns playing syndicate boss Douglas and detective Mitchum like Wurlitzers.
In an attempt to break away from his past, Mitchum begins operating a gas station in the small California town of Bridgeport. He begins a romance with Virginia Houston, a wholesome girl whose sincerity contrasts sharply with Greer's duplicity. At one point, after Mitchum meets Greer again when agreeing to perform one last job for Douglas, Houston tells him that "Nobody is all bad," including Greer's character Kathie. "She comes the closest," Mitchum replies acerbically.
Perhaps the most memorable line of the film is when, during a tense moment, Greer exclaims that eventually everyone dies. Mitchum replies, "Yeah, but if I've gotta die I'm gonna die last." That succinct dialogue describes determined loner Mitchum perfectly. His romance with Greer, however, leaves him a doomed man. She guns him down in her car just as the police have arrived after Mitchum has alerted them. "You dirty, double crossing rat," Greer snarls as she fatally shoots Mitchum. She then runs into an ensuing hail of gunfire from the police.
"Out of the Past" is noir suspense at its zenith. The Mitchum-Greer team was reunited two years later for "The Big Steal," which merged comedy and chase scene suspense adroitly.