Saturday, November 21, 2015

DESPERATE (1947)


This strong film is another Anthony Mann early noir effort which includes great camera angles and lighting. A dandy display of characters with an intelligent script. Steve “B-movie” Brodie and Audrey Long are newlyweds, expecting their first child after four months of marriage. Despite the film’s fast pace, in and out of vehicles, script logic takes a back seat. Brodie is an independent trucker who unexpectedly reconnects with Raymond Burr, a childhood friend. Emphasis on hood. Burr is now a mobster with plans to smuggle illegal merchandise using Brodie and his truck. Brodie wants no part of it even after taking a beating. The swinging overhead lamp, back and forth over Burr’s face will be memorable. Believable makeup for Brodie’s beating and swollen cheek, should also be noted. Burr threatens the wife if he does not go through with it. That hardly ever happens. During the opening heist, Burr’s kid brother was captured and set to be executed for killing a cop. Burr turns a bit psycho because of it and wants Brodie to confess to the shooting. His life for his brother’s. Brodie manages to escape after his first attempt fails. The only thing on his mind is his wife’s safety.


The couple quickly take the next train out of town. Switch to a bus. Steal a car. They are not sure where they are going to be safe nor does the audience have any idea where they are coming from. I could not figure where the story opens but guessing Chicago. Maybe I missed something. The decision is made to head for Long’s aunt & uncle's Minnesota farm. 



Meanwhile, back in mystery town, the police attempt to apprehend Burr and his gang. Burr escapes but a gunshot wound puts him out of circulation for two months. However, the hole in Burr’s stomach is smaller than any hole in this script. By now, no one could possibly find the newlyweds. Never mind the couple’s back rent for their original apartment, which is several months in arrears!

The trail seems impossibly cold until Burr’s cop-on-the-take finds the couple by checking Brodie’s unopened apartment mail. A letter from the aunt and uncle awaits with their return address on the envelope. Burr is roughly a twelve hour drive away, perhaps confirming the Chicago location. The farm no longer a safe haven, Brodie puts his wife on a bus for California while he deals with Burr.

The brief performance by Jason Robards, Sr. should not go unnoticed. He plays the laid-back, wise detective who is more often than not filing his nails nonchalantly when in conversation. His unflappable performance is fun to watch. When Brodie attempts to turn himself in, Robards sees his confession as just convenient lies. But he lets him go simply to track him and capture the entire gang. I would think not an easy task judging by Brodie’s earlier elusive transportation behavior. But Robards pops up at every turn. He soon discovers Brodie is on the level and both want to bury Burr's career.

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