|Gun Crazy (1949)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Dir. Joseph H. Lewis
Cast: Peggy Cummins, John Dall, Berry Kroeger
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Screening Time: Monday, July 31st at 8:55 p.m.
Ex-carnival girl Cummins persuades Dall to join her in a series of robberies and they become wanted criminals. Excellent lovers-on-the-run saga, replete with noir psychoses.
Budget: $400,000 (estimated)
What is the quintessence of a film-noir? A good answer is: an evil strong woman that manipulates a weak, although basically decent, man, involving him in a crazy love, doomed to a tragic ending. Then we can safely state that "Deadly is the Female" is a perfect instance of film-noir.
The movie has outstanding merits. The cinematography, and especially the camera-work are excellent, and comparable to the best achievements in the film-noir genre. Justly celebrated are the scenes filmed with the camera inside the car, like that of the bank shot in Hampton, a true cinematic gem. John Dall and Peggy Cummins, in the roles of the doomed lovers Bart and Annie Laurie, make a great job. The story starts slowly (a minor drawback), but as soon as the two lovers cross the border of legality, the movie acquires a quick, exciting and ruthless pace and presents a powerful finale.
The psychology of Bart and Annie Laurie is studied with care. Annie Laurie is a systematic liar. With Bart she always looks sweet, deeply in love, even subdued to her man. To justify her shootings and murders, she always whines with Bart that she had lost her nerves, that she was scared. But when Bart is not present, the viewer gets from her body language and the cruel expression of her eyes that she just loves to kill. Great job by Peggy Cummins.
So does Laurie just make use of Bart for her dirty purposes, to satisfy her own depravity? Not at all. Oddly enough, in another famous scene we see that Laurie really loves Bart with all her heart. Only, she is bad and cruel, that's her inner core. And is Bart so stupid and bewitched not to realize that Laurie is going to ruin him? No, he knows it, and he deeply suffers, but ultimately he doesn't care. Only Laurie counts. Desperately crazy love… how fascinating! (at least in a film-noir).
The script offers several memorable lines, and the many subtleties give realism to the story. For instance, Bart and Laurie are not professional criminals, and they show it when they carelessly spend "hot" money, which will cost them dearly.
"Deadly is the Female" is an excellent film, a relevant nugget in the film-noir gold mine. Highly recommended.
I had heard a lot about this when I first discovered "film noir," and I was not disappointed. It was very entertaining. I still enjoy watching this periodically, even after a half-dozen viewings.
John Dall and Peggy Cummins make one of the more interesting male-female pairings I’ve ever seen on film. Cummins is one of the prettiest women I’ve seen from the noir era and fascinating to view throughout this movie. I’m sorry her other films aren’t on video. She didn’t do many movies in the U.S.
The character Dall plays is good, too, although in the end his constant whining over the predicament he got into gets a little annoying. He plays the nice guy who is led astray by the bad woman. Yes, another classic example of the old Rabbinic saying that "a bad woman will always drag down a good man."
Innovative camera-work also make this fun to watch. At just under an hour-and- a-half, this is a fast-moving, always-entertaining film noir that lives up to its hype.
The original title of "Gun Crazy" was "Deadly Is the Female," and they ain’t kidding. If you thought Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker was the more ruthless member of the crime duo that gave Arthur Penn’s 1967 film its name, wait till you get a load of Peggy Cummins’s Annie in this little known cheapie from 1949. I wouldn’t want to get on this woman’s bad side; she can shoot cigarettes out of people’s mouths, for God’s sake.
"Gun Crazy" is such an obvious influence on Penn’s "Bonnie and Clyde" that I can’t believe the later film doesn’t credit it directly. Though the 1949 film is based on a short story that appeared in the "Saturday Evening Post" and the 1967 film worked with an original screenplay, both films could have been adapted from the same source. They portray the Annie/Bonnie character as bored and restless, turned on by the thought of crime and by a manly man who can really use his "gun." The Bart/Clyde character is tickled by the idea of being a virile stud in the eyes of his lover, but is ultimately too sensitive for the life they choose. And both films do a good job of portraying the desperation that plagues both couples, the isolation and loneliness they create for themselves and can never break out of, and the ultimate futility of their actions, since the "law" is going to catch up with them sooner or later.
Peggy Cummins is really good in this. I don’t know what else she’s been in, but her baby-doll voice creates an effective contrast to her colder-than-ice attitude. She’s crooning into her lover’s ear one minute and itching to kill someone the next. And you have to dig those French-inspired fashions that would cause a sensation nearly 20 years later when Dunaway donned them again for Penn’s film.
I thought John Dall was at first odd casting for the role of Bart. Annie is supposed to think of him as a man’s man, and Dall, with his willowy physique and gentle mannerisms is far from that. But then when we realize that he’s at heart really too gentle for the life he and Annie have chosen for themselves, his casting makes sense.
There are some small touches to this film that really add to its immediacy and realism. I loved the scenes of Annie and Bart driving to and from their heist jobs, shot from the back seat of the car as if we are a member of their gang. They have really funny and natural banter back and forth about where to park, etc. which I have to believe was improvised to some extent. The ending of the film, a face off in a creepy swamp, is eerie, and there’s a small twist in the last seconds of the film that might be easy to miss but may give you some things to think about if you catch it.
It’s interesting, and rather depressing, that one of the main themes of this film is the obsession with guns and violence that pervaded the country nearly 60 years ago, and here we are a handful of wars later, still dragging around the same old obsessions. Michael Moore’s recent documentary "Bowling for Columbine" could have just as easily been called "Gun Crazy," if that title weren’t already taken by this forgotten little blast of a movie.