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  Out of the Past

rating: (out of 4 stars)

United States; 1947
Directed by Jacques Tourneur; produced by Warren Duff; screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes); based on his novel
Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb, Steve Brodie

The classic film noir 'Out of the Past' lives up to the expectations. It contains everything the film needs. A hero, alone, not always controlling the situation, strong women, twists and turns, the big flashback, and of course those shadows. This is a very dark film noir, which kind of sounds double. It is one of the better films in the genre, where I count films such as 'The Big Sleep', 'Double Indemnity' and 'The Third Man' as my absolute favorites.

Many will place 'Out of the Past' among them, above even, and why not? The good and great film noirs all have the same qualities, sort of, so it becomes a matter of taste. This film brings Jeff (Robert Mitchum) as the relaxed hero, one day found by someone from his past. A flashback, one third of the entire film, explains to the viewer and in words to Jeff's girlfriend, how he once loved a girl in Mexico. The girl, named Kathie (Jane Greer), he was hired to find by Whit (Kirk Douglas). What starts out as a love affair ends in murder and the the split of Jeff and Kathie.

Now Jeff has to pay the price to Whit, who is back with Kathie, by doing some jobs for him. His past is catching up with him and events happened then bring him into trouble now. As all film noirs, it sounds complicated, and it sometimes is, but it is always clear enough to keep the viewer's attention. Even better, it is always intriguing. In this genre you often doubt motives, especially by women, and here it is not different. Kathie seems sincere in Mexico, but in the second half of the film it is hard to guess what she is thinking.

Important for 'Out of the Cast' is its casting. Mitchum is easy going but tough, and Greer is an excellent match. In my opinion Douglas is the most memorable as the seemingly friendly criminal, which makes him all the more creepier. Near the end Rhonda Fleming turns up as another femme fatale, not sure if che can be trusted, playing a secretary to a man who might have the answer to all of Jeff's problems.

In 'Cat People' director Jacques Tourneur played with light and darkness, to great effect for mood and atmosphere. Here he does it again, in one of the best examples of film noir out there.

  Review by Reinier Verhoef