Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Chase - 1946 film review

The Chase is a drab title for a film based on a book with a rather better title - The Black Path of  Fear. But it's by no means a drab film, even if it is undeniably noir. I read the novel aeons ago when I was going through a real Cornell Woolrich phase, and although I can't recall much about it, I'm pretty sure that the film is very different. And it's certainly unusual.

We begin with Chuck Scott, clearly down on his luck and unable to afford breakfast. He's popping some pills, but it's not clear what's wrong with him. Then he finds a wallet on the ground and it's stuffed with cash. He buys breakfast but then heads off to the mansion which is home to the wallet's owner. This proves to be a rich guy called Roman, who is clearly a psychopath. Roman has a sidekick called Gino, played by Peter Lorre with characteristic sleazy menace. But when Roman offers Chuck a job as a driver, it's an offer too good to refuse.

Roman and Gino cross swords with a businessman who has outsmarted them, and manage to imprison him in the wine cellar, together with a hungry and vicious dog. Meanwhile, Roman's glamorous wife, clearly unhappy, keeps asking Chuck to drive her to a lonely coastline. She wants to escape to Cuba and offers Chuck $1000 to take her there. But then strange things begin to happen....

I don't want to spoil the story, which offers an intriguing take on psychological disturbance. Suffice to say that the narrative takes a very disconcerting course. I'm not sure this is entirely successful, but my attention was held throughout. Some aspects of the film are unsatisfactory - the music, for instance, struck me as over-the-top and occasionally irritating. The censors probably toned the film down to its detriment, but it retains an uncanny appeal.  



arkady hughes said...

Great that you liked it, Martin. For me it's let down by Robert Cummings (a supremely bland actor who nearly derailed Hitchcock's Saboteur) playing the Garfield-like Postman always Rings Twice down on his luck character. But it is beautiful to look at at and just weird how it's essentially a film of two halves, straight-ish gangster noir and dream-like fantasy (recommend the equally odd Woolrich adaptation Fear in the Night 1947 and 1951 noir His Kind of Woman, which has a similar two films joined together structure (and is an oxymoronic hilarious noir)).
I'm new GAD to writing too and I thank you from my heart for bringing to my attention the joys of the likes of Christopher St John Sprigg,JJ Connington, Richard Hull, et al. Thank you.

Martin Edwards said...

Nice to hear from you. I rather agree about Cummings. His Kind of Woman is not a film I know, so I must seek it out...

arkady hughes said...

His Kind of Woman is an infamous Howard Hughes produced movie (he possibly had a hand in the dialogue and directing) that starts off straight noir with Robert Mitchum down on his luck "here I was taking off my tie wondering whether to hang myself with it" and half way through turns into a screwball comedy with Vincent Price as a ham actor prone to dramatically quoting Shakespeare and Mitchum and Jane Russell allegedly adlibbing lines like:
Mitchum : Whenever I have nothing to do and I can't think, I always iron my money.
Russell : What d'ya do when you're broke?
Mitchum : When I'm broke, I press my pants.
It's an experience. And it has Robert Mitchum.

Oh and Cummings is oddly OK in the Reign of Terror aka The Black Book (an Anthony Mann French revolution film shot as a noir).

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Arkady. I'll keep an eye out for His Kind of Woman. Sounds intriguingly odd.