Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
Peggy Cummins IS Annie Laurie Starr in this film noir classic! Three years after her ignominious firing from Otto Preminger's "Forever Amber" (reportedly because she looked like a little girl playing dress-up in period costumes), Cummins showed that she could be every bit as sexy as her replacement, Linda Darnell in a blonde wig. In this beautifully directed saga by Joseph H. Lewis, Starr is a sideshow attraction in a carnival, sleeping with her yucky boss Packett (Barry Kroeger) and impressing small town crowds with her shooting expertise. Then Bart Tare (John Dall) walks by with a couple of his friends. Bart's had an interesting history with GUNS. As a child (Rusty Tamblyn), he was obsessed with them, not with killing, just with GUNS and was sent to reform school by Judge Willougby (Morris Carnovsky). Bart quickly impresses Annie with HIS shooting expertise & they fall into instant lust, sort of a ménage a trois, really, Annie, Bart and GUNS. Packett hires Bart for the act and he tours with the carnival, until he and Annie get married. Then a jealous Packett fires them both and they lose their legitimate arena for expressing their passion with guns. It isn't really poverty that leads them to the next step, but Annie's desire to use a gun again. Bart resists her suggestion that they become bank robbers and tries to leave, but the bond between them is too strong and their fate is sealed.
There is a wonderful sequence as they approach the bank, shot from the back seat of the car, with all-natural lighting. It just looks so real and the acting by Cummins and Dall is so artless that for a moment we forget we're watching a movie with actors, it's like we intruded on an actual hold-up. If "Gun Crazy" were re-released today, it would bat most neo noir entries out of the ballpark. Independently produced by the King Brothers, Frank and Maurice, who also made 1945's "Dillinger," "Gun Crazy" is based on the Saturday Evening Post story by MacKinlay Kantor. Millard Kaufman fronted for blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was the most prolific of the Hollywood Ten: He won Oscars for "Roman Holiday" (using a front) and "The Brave One" (with a pseudonym) while still on the blacklist. Lewis' other excellent noir films include "My Name Is Julia Ross", "So Dark The Night", "Undercover Man", "A Lady Without Passport" and "The Big Combo."
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 9/13/00
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