Thriller

Jet Storm (1959)

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I saw this for the first time a few months back. I had wanted to see this one for a very long time after hearing lots of good things about it. I was really looking forward to checking this one out .

I think that perhaps I may have expected too much from it. The film turned out to be quite a mixed bag for me. While I don’t hate the film, I don’t exactly love it either. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a terrible film, it is actually quite good, but I just got the feeling that this was something of a wasted opportunity.

On paper I’m sure that this one must have sounded like a first rate suspense/thriller. I don’t think it turned out quite like that though. It has its moments for sure, but I for one was left with the feeling that this could and should have been so much better. There should have been much more suspense and tension.

I have to mention that the film is notable for having a plot which must surely have been the inspiration for Airport.

The cast are one of the films strengths. Richard Attenborough delivers one of his best performances here as a distraught father whose desire for revenge has made him lose his grip on reality. Stanley Baker is solid (as always)as the cool under pressure pilot of the plane. It’s also very nice to see so many familiar faces from British film and TV; Paul Eddington, Hermoine Baddeley, Harry Secombe, Elizabeth Sellars, Sybil Thorndyke, Megs Jenkins and Marty Wilde(who also sings the title song.)

Ernest Tilley(Richard Attenborough) is a bereaved father, who takes a bomb on a passenger plane. Why? Because he plans to detonate it to kill another passenger who killed his daughter. The pilot(Stanley Baker)has to discover where the bomb is and find a way to possibly talk Tilley out of his plan.

With a plot like that you’d think there would be loads of nail biting, edge of your seat moments. It may surprise you to learn that there are actually very few. We do however get treated to a very good character study of the various passengers and crew though, which I enjoyed watching very much, this focus gives all the actors their chance to shine.

I also like how Tilley has our sympathy despite his horrific plan. The grief at losing a loved one the way he did can certainly lead those left behind to act very much out of character. Tilley’s situation makes you think how you would react towards the person who killed your child.

I found the majority of the film to be quite laughable though to be honest. For instance, there is a couple who play cards and make quips throughout the whole thing, even when they know their lives are at risk. I know we Brits are famous for our stiff upper lip/calm under pressure mentality, but those two were taking that attitude to a whole other level. If I was on that plane I would have been terrified for sure. The film also shows how frighteningly lax airport security was back in the day.

I was also left wondering as to exactly how Tilley knew that the man he was after would be on that particular flight, and more to the point on that particular day?

Attenborough gives a very good performance, the scene between him and the boy near the end was quite moving. I also liked the banter between Secombe and Thorndyke’s characters. There is also a very impressive and dramatic scene(you will know it when you see it) that was really the only highlight of the film.

If you go into this one not expecting anything more than an escape from reality for an hour and half, then you will probably enjoy this one quite a bit. Personally though, I think I just expected more from a film directed and written by C. Raker Enfield and featuring this group of British stars. As I said though, it does have its moments and the cast certainly don’t disappoint.

I particularly recommend this one for fans of Baker and Attenborough. I’d also recommend it for anyone who is a fan of the Airport films.

I wouldn’t mind watching this one again, but it’s not one that I will be adding to my favourites list any time soon.

Anyone else seen this one? I’d love to know what you made of this one. Never seen it? Give it a go, you may well enjoy it much more than I did.

 

 

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Blogathons, Fantasy

The Colours Blogathon: The Red Shoes (1948)

Colours Blogathon

Catherine, over at Thoughts All Sorts,is hosting this blogathon all about films that feature colours in their titles. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m writing about one of my all time favourite films, the 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger classic The Red Shoes. This is one of the most visually stunning and beautiful films ever made in my opinion. Artistic, imaginative, romantic, absorbing, and quite moving; this film truly has something in it for everyone to enjoy.

Firstly, I would like to talk a little bit about Powell and Pressburger themselves. The pair began working together in 1939, on the WW2 spy thriller, The Spy In Black. They founded their own production company called The Archers in 1943. Their distinctive film logo (an arrow being fired into an archery target)became as famous as the films it appeared at the beginning of.

The majority of their films were quite different from any others being made at the time; they were visually imaginative and impressive, and they were more like works of moving art than traditional films. The uniqueness and artistic look of their work is a major factor for me in liking their films so much.

Powell and Pressburger were completely different from other filmmakers of the time, and they created films that really took you out of your own life (in a major way)for a few hours.

From time to time though they could also make films of the kind the public were more used to seeing; films such as The Small Back Room, The Spy In Black and 49th Parallel. Their collaboration came to an amicable end in 1957, and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. Their films were not instantly acclaimed as classics upon release, it took several decades for them to receive great praise and appreciation.

Director Martin Scorsese is a big fan of their work and he has done so much to bring their films to the attention of audiences today. Powell was also married for the last few years of his life to Scorsese’s regular editor, Thelma Schoonmaker.

Powell and Pressburger became famous for the use of Technicolor in their films. In The Red Shoes they once again use Technicolor to its best possible effect. They, along with their regular cinematographer Jack Cardiff, created magic and moving art on screen. The colours are so rich and vibrant, and it is the look of the film that lingers in the mind long after the film has finished.

This filmmaking team managed to use Technicolor in a way that had never been done before, nor has it been achieved in films since, and their use of colour is one of the most memorable aspects to so many of their films, especially in this one. This team prove what filmmakers are capable of achieving should they put their minds to it. Their films are pure art and are rightly praised and admired by film fans today.

Moving on to the film. In The Red Shoes (long before Black Swan) we are shown the sacrifices that have to be made by ballerinas for their art. They push themselves extremely hard, and for some there can be nothing else apart from the ballet in their life, they give all they are to their art. We also see that their dedication to their art can make them ill if they push themselves too hard. 

The Red Shoes is based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. It is all about a young girl who puts on a pair of red shoes. Once she does, she soon finds that she cannot take them off, and finds they make her dance everywhere she goes. She cannot make herself stop for a rest. In her despair she turns to a woodcutter for help and he chops off her feet, as she lies in his arms the shoes dance off still containing her feet. Off those shoes go, forever continuing their eternal dance around the land. Can you believe that was a children’s story? It made a big impact on me when I first read it, and it has stayed with me to this day. Some dark stuff for sure.

The film (thankfully)does not focus too much on that story. We instead focus on a young ballerina who must choose between her career with the ballet, or her own personal life and having love in that life.

Vicky Page (Moira Shearer)is a young ballet dancer who attracts the attention of Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). He is the head of world famous ballet company, The Ballet Lermontov. He sees great potential in Vicky. When his lead dancer, the adored Irina (Ludmilla Tcherina) leaves his company to get married, Lermontov gives Vicky Irina’s position in the company.

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Vicky finds lasting fame in the ballet community as the lead in a ballet written especially for her. That ballet is the Red Shoes, and it is based on the tale by Hans Christian Anderson.

As her success and talent grows, Boris falls in love with Vicky and he is determined to keep her with him at all costs. Vicky likes and respects him but she doesn’t return his feelings, instead she falls in love with young musician Julian Craster (Marius Goring). He offers her a life away from the pressures of the ballet.

Lermontov becomes jealous of the young couple, and soon Vicky finds herself forced to choose between her career and her life with Julian. It is extremely difficult for her as she loves both equally and becomes emotionally torn between them. Soon she starts to become ill from all this pressure.

Four of the films leading actors were ballet dancers at the time of the films release. Moira Shearer (playing Vicky), Robert Helpmann (playing Ivan, the much respected lead dancer of the Lermontov ballet), Ludmilla Tcherina (playing Irina) and Leonide Massine (playing Grisha, the temperamental company choreographer). Each of these get their own chance to shine in various dance sequences throughout the film. 

The standout sequence in the film is the ballet of the Red Shoes. The sequence in its entirety lasts around fifteen minutes of screen time. The sequence is one of the most artistic and creepy things ever put on screen. I think it captures the beauty and artistry of ballet perfectly.

There are also several scenes in that sequence that feature bizarre and creepy images which for me bring to mind a nightmare. I’m specifically thinking of the scene where begins Vicky hallucinating things from her own life during the performance (such as the shoemaker transforming into Lermontov and Julian), and of the shots of men turning into paper figures and slowly falling to the ground, as Vicky’s uncontrollable, red clad feet dance amongst their fallen, limp figures. I’ve often wondered if the fallen figures represent people in the fairytale who die, while the girl in the red shoes lives forever dancing on, and on, and on?

It’s a dazzling sequence for sure and is a perfect blend of the art of ballet and of the art of film. There is also some clever camera trickery at work in it for the moment Vicky jumps into the red shoes and they lace themselves up. This shot still impresses when viewed today.

Anton Walbrook gives the standout performance of the film for me. He is a man driven by his dedication to his work who finds himself falling in love . Then he starts hating himself for getting drawn away from his work by his desire for Vicky, and for the desire for a personal life away from his work. He steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he can be seen seething with jealousy and barely repressed desire in regards to Vicky. He makes you both pity and despise Lermontov at the same time.

Moira Shearer is excellent as the young woman given the career opportunity of her life. Her initial excitement soon transitions to weariness and short temper when she is under pressure. She really brings home the struggle that Vicky is enduring concerning the choice between her private and professional life.

Marius Goring is energetic as the dedicated and outgoing composer who cannot understand Vicky and Lermontov’s obsession with the ballet. He can offer Vicky happiness, but is she willing or able to accept it? Goring was one of the best character actors in all of British cinema, here he gets quite a major role and gets a real chance to shine and it’s nice to see him in a more major role for once.

My favourite scenes are the following. Vicky climbing the stairs to Lermontov’s villa (this sequence looks like something straight out of a fairytale, Vicky is like a Princess in that outfit she wears and it looks like she is exploring a deserted castle.) The ballet of The Red Shoes. Vicky and Lermontov meeting for the first time at the party and he asks her “why do you want to dance?”, she replies “why do you want to live?”  Julian and Vicky arguing during rehearsal about how she should dance during a particular music segment. The montage of Vicky and Ivan dancing in several ballet productions. Lermontov sitting in his apartment, alone, depressed and angry.

Like the fairytale upon which it’s based, this film has quite a dark edge to it and the ending is very bleak. Don’t let that put you off though, as it is truly worth watching. This film never fails to impress me and has become a real favourite over the years. It’s in my top five favourite Powell and Pressburger films too.

Be sure to watch either the special restoration DVD release of this, or check out the Blu-Ray version to see the film looking at its best.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

Blogathons

The Movie Scientist Blogathon: Dr. Emmett Brown

Movie scientist blogathonChristina Wehner and Ruth, over at Silver Screenings are hosting this blogathon all about movie scientists, be those scientists good, bad, or just plain crazy.  Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m discussing a scientist who is certainly one of the good guys. The scientific genius in question is none other than the eccentric, and extremely loveable, Dr. Emmett Brown from the Back To The Future film trilogy.

With his wild hair, wide eyes, and over excitable personality, Dr. Emmett Brown really is the epitome of the crazy film scientist. He is far from mad though, and he certainly isn’t an evil or dangerous man either. A loyal friend, and a curious and gentle soul are how I would best describe this man. 

Doc Brown’s claim to scientific fame is that he invents a device which actually makes time travel possible. He has a vehicle that he equips for time travel. Does he plan on travelling through time and space in a ship? A police phone box? (fans of Doctor Who will get that reference)Through a time portal? Nope. Doc Brown’s time travelling machine is none other than a DeLorean car.

The Doc sets the car up so that it becomes possible for the occupant to be able to key in a specific date in history/the future that they would like to visit. This date is typed into a panel on the dashboard. Once the car hits 88mph, it and its occupants, are sent back or forward (in a swirl of flames)in time. The catch is that the car runs on Plutonium, and unless you take a back up supply with you, returning to your own time once your visit is over will prove near on impossible to do.

In the first film of the trilogy we find ourselves in the American town of Hill Valley, in the year 1985. Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) steals some Plutonium from Libyan terrorists, who are now tracking him down to get it back. The Doc meets his best friend Marty (Michael J. Fox)in a shopping mall carpark in the early hours of the morning. Doc shows Marty the DeLorean time machine, and he asks Marty to film the moment Doc will make history by going back in time. Just at that moment the Libyans show up and shoot the Doc, and then they go after Marty.

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Marty jumps in the car and tries to evade them, he speeds up to 88mph and finds himself back in Hill Valley in 1955! The Plutonium chamber is empty and he has no backup (the Doc was in the process of putting more in when he was shot. Marty must track down the younger Doc (still played by Christopher Lloyd)and get his help to go home.

Marty must ensure he does not interfere with history in any way, as that could have major repercussions on the future. This is made difficult for him when he meets his teenage mum, who quickly develops a major crush on him! Marty must help his parents realise they are meant to get together. Marty must also help them get rid of the local bully, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Can the Doc help Marty and find a way to get him  back home?

Part 2 sees the Doc, Marty ,and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer travel to the future Hill Valley. There they encounter flying cars, hover boards and 3D technology. They also encounter a terrifying alternate timeline; one in which the town of Hill Valley is now run by Biff, who is now a millionaire, who has killed Marty’s dad, and is now married to Marty’s mum!

Part 3 finds Marty and the Doc going back in time to the Wild West. They encounter ancestors of characters we’ve seen in the other two films. The Doc also finds love for the first time in his life with a schoolteacher (Mary Steenburgen). Can Marty and the Doc ever get home?

I love Christopher Lloyd in these films. He conveys so much about this character through expressions alone. He has always been a very physical and emotive actor (any fans of his role in Taxi?) and I think he is really at his best here as the Doc.

Christopher makes the Doc intelligent, hyperactive, gentle, funny, quirky and fearless. There is so much going on with this character and Christopher lets us see it all. Such a great performance. He captures the curiosity and joy of the scientist perfectly. Every little discovery or break through results in cries of delight from him. 

The Doc is someone who will try anything once. He has no fear of trying anything and everything to find ways of making his inventions work. He is a loyal friend and a gentle soul who struggles socially, but who will make an effort when and where he can.

I really love his friendship with Marty. Marty treats the Doc with respect and loves him too. Marty doesn’t treat the Doc as a weirdo, unlike many of the people who know him. The Doc is also the only person in Marty’s life (in the first film at least)who listens to Marty and is there for him equally in return. They have a strong bond and the Doc brings some excitement into Marty’s pretty dull/average life. Through his friendship with him, Marty lets Doc connect in a small way to normal life. They are one of my favourite film duos.

I think that the Doc represents the curiosity and passion that all scientists have about their work and research. The Doc is completely devoted to his work (sometimes at the expense of anything remotely resembling life as you and I know it)but all that hard work pays off in the end. This character lets us see that anything is possible if you only focus and put your mind to it. 

I think that Doc Brown may just be my favourite screen scientist.   🙂

Any other fans of this loveable, funny, and clever scientific genius? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Personal

Maddy Returns

Hi all.

I hope you are all well. I am sorry I’ve been away for a while. Over the weekend of the 2nd of September our laptop broke. What we were told would be a simple repair lasting all of five days, has turned into a two week nightmare of appalling customer service, conflicting information and much annoyance.

Our computers at work are not allowed to be used for personal use, so I wasn’t able to check in with you from there. Due to my work hours I’ve not been able to borrow a friends computer either to check in. We finally got the computer back today!

I look forward to catching up with you all soon. Will try and check in with all your blogs as soon as I can. My apologies to Christina and Catherine for missing their blogathons. My posts were all written and ready. I am going to put them up in a minute.

Maddy x

 

Drama, Romance, Silent Film, War

Wings (1927)

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It’s been a while since I did a Silent film review. I’d like to talk about one of my favourites from this era. It is set during World War One, and it is one of the all time great war films. It is also one of the best big screen epics. The film is Wings.

I think it is pretty remarkable just how well Wings stands up when it is viewed today. 90 years after its original release, this film still remains a gripping and realistic depiction of war and of aerial combat. The film also manages to be a touching portrayal of friendship, and takes a look at the heartbreak of unrequited love.

The performances in this film really come across to me as being very natural. Arlen and Rogers are both excellent. I think they both do a very good job of conveying their characters transitions from wide eyed, eager, and very apprehensive newbies in the corps, to seasoned and traumatised veterans (and still at such a young age).

Bow delivers the real standout performance for me; she is effervescent and lumious one moment and broken hearted and vulnerable the next. This is one of her best performances from the Silent era.

Henry B. Walthall and Julia Swayne Gordon are both moving as David’s mum and dad. The scene where they say goodbye to him as he leaves for the war has me welling up. Henry plays the dad doing that stiff upper lip thing, he won’t allow himself to break down or hug his son because if he did he’d never let him go. Julia makes the mother more emotional, but she still restrains her full emotions from showing.

This film was the first ever Best Picture Oscar winner (and until The Artist won in 2011, it was the only Silent film to win the award) and it’s not difficult to see why there was so much love for this one. WW1 would have been fresh in the minds of audiences watching this for the first time. They no doubt would have been able to really connect with the experiences of the lead trio, and have been able to relate to their characters wartime experiences. The film does a good job of capturing the horror of war, and also of the fact that death will come and claim anyone at any time.

The performances and characters keep my interest throughout, but it is hard to deny the real stars of this one are the aerial sequences. Real planes and hundreds of pilots feature in the film. The aerial sequences were shot on location at Kelly Field Air Force Annex, in San Antonio, Texas.

The aerial scenes really keep you on the edge of your seat and add a great deal of realism to the film. I think these sequences drawer you deeper into the story and that they have a documentary look about them.

One of my reasons for loving Silent films so much is that I love how visually beautiful and unique so many of them look. I also have a real fondness for tinting in Silent films. Many Silent films were tinted in various different colours and there is some glorious screen tinting to be enjoyed in this one. I especially love the golden tint which features heavily throughout. I also think that the intertitle cards look very nice too.

Wings is a film that is an intimate human drama, set against a backdrop of global warfare.

In a small town in America, life is idyllic, and the youth are out enjoying life to the full. Best friends Jack (Charles “Buddy” Rogers)and David (Richard Arlen)compete for the affections of the beautiful and wealthy Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). Jack is pretty slow (seriously, how on earth could he miss her signals!)to see that his neighbour, Mary (Clara Bow) is in love with him. She shares his adventurous nature and is clearly the gal for him.  

America soon becomes embroiled in the First World War and Jack and David sign up to join the Air Corps. Headed overseas they are soon fighting against the Germans.  Mary also joins the fight, by signing up as a nurse/ambulance driver. Heartbreak, joy and a tragic twist of fate lie in store for our trio.

The film is notable for several reasons. Firstly of course there are all those spectacular aerial sequences. I like how we also see the pilots in the cockpit and that really makes us a part of the scene as we see the personal effect of these impressive air battles.

The film also features some very striking photography and camerawork. The way the camera zooms across the tables of a nightclub until we find Jack is very memorable. There is also the scene where Jack drinks champagne and we see the bubbles float up out of his glass. When he later gets quite drunk he sees giant bubbles everywhere.

The film also features a very young Gary Cooper in a small role. Coop makes quite an impression as Cadet White, an ill fated fellow pilot who meets Jack and David.

It Happened One Night fans should also keep an eye out for Roscoe Karns in a small role.

The film also features a famous kiss between Jack and David, many people see it as a gay moment. I can see why they might think that, but is not supposed to be seen as a romantic kiss though, it is simply deep affection and love between best friends. Remember the reason why the kiss is taking place also and see it in that context. I can see why this moment made quite an impact though, and nothing like that would be seen on screen again for decades after this. 

The film also contains a few scenes of nudity. There’s the scene in the examination room when the lads go to sign up with the airforce. Clara is also shown nude in the scene where Mary is caught getting undressed in the hotel.

My only issue with the film is its treatment of Mary. I wish we had been given a few scenes showing her experiences during the war in more detail. It wasn’t only David and Jack who were taking part in the war, she was too. I also hate the double standard of how she is punished when she is found in Jack’s hotel room.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mary helping Jack with his car. The plane crashing into the house which has rows of freshly dug war graves right next door to it. David and Jack meeting Cadet White, sharing his chocolate, getting to know him and then hearing tragic news about him. All the scenes featuring the patriotic Herman Schwimpf. David saying goodbye to his family. David and Jack looking through Cadet White’s personal belongings. Mary thinking she has hurt a soldier whe she crashes her ambulance. Jack visting David’s parents. The older woman helping Mary choose a dress to wear when she is with Jack. Mary finding Jack in the nightclub, the look she gives the other woman he is with is priceless(if looks could kill, then that gal would be flat on the floor). All the scenes featuring the planes. I also love the intertitle saying the film is dedicated to the dead airman”To those young warriors of the sky, whose wings are folded about them forever, this picture is reverently dedicated.”

This is a film that I never get tired of watching. It moves and impresses in equal measure. It is one of the very best films to be made during the Silent era. Any other fans of this one? If you’ve never seen it I highly recommend you buy the Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray disc, the film looks stunning on that and there are some good extras too.

 

 

 

Disaster

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 11: Twister (1996)

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There is nothing scarier in this world (well, apart from some of our fellow human beings)than seeing mother nature turn against us. When nature goes berserk it serves as a lesson to us to remember that we are not the masters of this planet. We stand helpless and in awe in the face of destruction caused by natural disasters.

Twister lets us experience the terror and the unstoppable force that is nature from a safe distance. The film is also one hell of a thrill ride.

One of the worst series of tornados in over fifty years strikes Oklahoma. They leave a trail of destruction in their wake. A team of storm chasers led by Jo Harding (Helen Hunt)pursue these twisters in the hopes of being able to get close enough to one and launch an advanced weather sensor into the funnel.

They hope that the sensor can gain enough data from inside the twisters to be able to create an advanced weather warning system, which will give people more chance to be able to get to safety when a twister strikes.

Jo’s estranged husband Bill (Bill Paxton)comes to her group asking her for a divorce so he can marry his fiancé Melissa( Jami Gertz). Before Jo can sign the divorce papers a storm starts to develop and the team are off to try and launch their sensors. Bill and Melissa tag along for the ride.

As the film goes on, the twisters increase in size and destructive capability. These sequences are terrifying to witness, and the special effects used within them stand up pretty well when viewed today.

I first saw this when I around 11 years old and it really freaked me out. I remember watching at night with my parents and we were sharing a box of Dairy Box chocolates (umm, delicious).  When it got to the part at the drive in movie theatre I lost my nerve and couldn’t watch any more. I carried on with it a few days later though. I think I got unnerved because of how well the film captures how scary those situations are, and also how powerless we are if we are caught up in them.

Hunt and Paxton are both excellent as the dedicated scientists who also realise they still have feelings for one another. A scene stealing Philip Seymour Hoffman is hysterical as Dusty, an outgoing, loud music loving member of the team. Cary Elwes pops up in villain mode, as a rival storm chaser.

The film is directed by Jan De Bont, who gave us another thrill ride a couple of years before this with Speed.

I don’t eat meat, but this film features a dinner scene which has me craving a steak, fried eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy so bad. I am of course referring to Aunt Meg’s famous dinner scene. It makes me hungry every time I watch the film. That food looks so good!

Good fun, likable characters and some good special effects all combine to make this one well worth your time. Perfect weekend viewing I’d say. Best not viewed when it looks a bit windy outside though.

My favourite scenes are the following. Dinner at Aunt Meg’s. The scene where young Jo and her family run from a twister. The water twisters. The “you’ve never seen it miss this house, and miss that house, and come after you” scene.

Any other fans?

 

 

Blogathons, Noir

The Alan Ladd Blogathon: This Gun For Hire (1942)

Alan Ladd Blogathon YellowRachel, over at Hamlette’s Soliloquy is hosting this blogathon all about the actor Alan Ladd. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. I’m writing about Alan’s performance in the Noir film This Gun For Hire.

In 1942, Alan Ladd (seen in the banner above) was cast in the lead role in a little Noir film which would catapult him to film stardom. For several years before this role came along Alan had been working very hard trying to get his big screen break. 

Since the early 1930’s Alan Ladd had been seen on screen in bit parts, including in a small role as a reporter in Citizen Kane. Try as he might though, he just wasn’t getting cast in any major film roles and it seemed like he was going nowhere mighty fast. 

Alan’s luck was about to change though when he was offered the role of the contract killer Raven, in Frank Tuttle’s 1942 Noir film, This Gun For Hire.

Who knows what Ladd thought of his role as Raven, or indeed if he had any expectations at all as to audience reactions to his performance. Whatever he may have thought though, he was in for a very pleasant surprise indeed. This film made him into a star.

Following his performance in this film Alan Ladd would go on to become one of the most beloved stars of the 40’s and 50’s. His career peaked with the 1953 Western film Shane. Alan sadly died in 1964 , aged just fifty years old. A sad loss indeed for the film industry.

This Gun For Hire is a very good film indeed, but I think it is Ladd who makes this film remain so memorable today. He is downright scary as the ice cold killer calmly killing to order. He steals every scene he is in with just a look. He really doesn’t need much dialogue in this one, his face tells us all we will ever need to know about this guy and what his motives are.   

Right from the films opening scene Ladd has our attention with every little move he makes, and with every look which crosses his face. He gives us a very clear impression of Raven. We see that he is kind and tender towards his cat, and that he shows absolutely nothing but contempt and hatred towards the cleaning woman who hurts his cat. Raven slaps the cleaning woman and roughly makes her leave his room. 

As the film goes on we see that Raven isn’t a people person, and he has no qualms whatsoever about killing other people to order. He will use his own judgement though at times and if something doesn’t seem right to him he will go against orders. He is also a very good judge of character too.

This film also saw the first pairing of one of cinemas greatest screen couples. Who are they? Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake of course. This couple worked together in four Noir films. As far as I’m concerned this first film is one of their very best pairings. They are magical together and have real chemistry. Ladd’s baby faced, tough guy, and Lake’s cool, sensual blonde sure do make for a very memorable screen pairing.

The growing relationship between their characters is a major part of why I love this film so much. They slowly grow to trust and like each other, and Raven opens up to tell her about his past, which then explains so much to us about how he came to be the man he is. The interactions between their characters is the heart and soul of the film. Ladd and Lake (and their characters) are the reason (in my opinion)why this film stands up so well when viewed today. The film has a really cracking story, but it is the strong performances which linger most in your mind after viewing this one.

Raven (Alan Ladd)is a gun for hire, he is not a people person and much prefers the company of animals. Raven is hired by the peppermint chewing Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) to kill a blackmailer who has stolen a chemical formula from the Nitro Chemical company where Gates works. Raven (in a pretty brutal sequence for the era) kills the blackmailer and his girlfriend, and then leaves with the recovered formula.

Gates betrays Raven by paying him off with some marked money. Gates then reports Raven to the Police. Raven doesn’t trust Gates and he buys something from a shop to test if the money is being watched for. He sees that it is marked, and so Raven then goes after Gates for revenge.

Gates also works as a nightclub manager and hires the talented singer/magic act entertainer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) to work for him. Unbeknown to him she is the girlfriend of Detective Michael Crane (Robert Preston)who is on Raven’s tale. Ellen is also asked to spy on Gates by a Senator, who is himself being blackmailed by Gates.

It soon transpires that Nitro Chemicals, Gates, and his colleagues are under suspicion of being traitors to their country. Ellen risks her life to get dirt on Gates, and is soon also thrown together with Raven. The two get closer and closer to danger and to the truth.

My favourite scenes are the following. Ellen’s magic trick act for Gates(featuring a catchy song and some clever camera trickery and editing.) Raven evading the Police at his hotel. Raven telling Ellen about his childhood. Raven and Ellen meeting on the train. Gates discovering Raven is on the same train as him and getting very worried indeed.  

This is a solid Noir/thriller about a brave gal, and about a morally dubious man, who in the end does show some redemptive qualities. Ladd steals every scene he is in here. It’s really not hard to see why this performance turned him into a star. This is one of my favourite films of his, and I think it would be a very good place to start to introduce someone to his film work.

Here are my five favourite Alan Ladd performances.

                                                                 1- This Gun For Hire

                                                                 2 – The Blue Dahlia

                                                                 3- Shane

                                                               4- Hell Below Zero

                                                               5  -The Proud Rebel

What are your thoughts on this film?  Any other fans? What do you think of Alan’s performance as Raven? Please leave your comments below.