A marked hit man flees with a nightclub singer and stops a fifth-column poison-gas plot. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 07/06/2004 Starring: Alan Ladd Robert Preston Run time: 80 minutes Rating: Nr Direct... more »or: Frank Tuttle« less
"Wonderful character actor Laird Cregar plays the oily and overfed Broadway angel and hulking Lothario to singing magician Veronica Lake. By day he's a squeamish schemer, eager to contract out crime most foul just so long as he isn't subjected to recitals of any disturbing details. That he'd double cross Alan Ladd's Raven was as inevitable as his bedtime box of mints and book of racy French stories. That Raven would resent it was unfortunate, indeed. Cregar died at the tender age of 30, two years after THIS GUN FOR HIRE was released. For old movie fans unfamiliar with him, he was a combination of a bulked up Vincent Price and Sydney Greenstreet with a little more bounce in his step. As delightful as Cregar is, discussion of THIS GUN FOR HIRE starts and stops with Alan Ladd, who catapulted to stardom with his portrayal of the cold-blooded killer Raven. The emblematic scene occurs early on, when the hired Ladd enters an apartment building to fulfill his end of the contract. He meets a young girl wearing leg braces as he walks up the stairs. What occurs next, and continues on until he leaves the building, is simply a brilliant bit of minimalist screen acting. Raven's face is an expressionless, cold-blooded, inscrutable mask. Ladd plays the sequence almost solely with his eyes. They dart menacingly from the crippled girl to the apartment door, assessing the risks, flashing for a split second before smoldering to a colder temperature. It's a justifiably famous scene, one of the best tough guy sequences ever, a star maker. The plot bends and twists just enough to throw Ladd and Lake together for most of the last half of the movie. She a hostage with a secret or two, he obsessed with getting back at Cregar. The camera liked what it saw when they shared a frame. Ladd and Lake oozed chemistry, enough for a handful of future teamings. Their characters dance an uneasy minuet in this one - Ladd never lets Lake's considerable charms breach his tough guy shell, she's reminded more than once why he's named for a ruthless carrion killer. The only time this movie stumbles, I believe, is when Ladd talks about the "psych-something doctor" who can make his bad dreams go away. By then the movie was in a hurry to get to the final scene, and it needed to humanize Ladd some before getting there. Still, it feels awkward and stilted. THIS GUN FOR HIRE is an exceptional movie, one of the best tough-guy crime thrillers ever made. "
A nice, slick bit of 40s movie-making
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 12/09/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Gun for Hire was based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale and was considerably toned down and glammed up for the early 40s movie going public. Not that there's anything wrong with that.I found this movie rather enjoyable, it is easy to see why Ladd and Lake were made into a screen team. They are supported by Laird Cregar as a plotting spy with no stomach for violence and Robert Preston as Veronica Lake's cop boyfriend. Alan Ladd steals the show as Raven, a killer for hire who really only likes cats. (as a cat lover, I was automatically more sympathetic to him) Cregar's Gates betrayed him to the cops and now he wants revenge.Raven and Lake's Ellen, a nightclub magician, cross paths throughout the movie and she begins to strip down his tough guy veneer to reveal an abused childhood. Armed with her brains and a considerable amount of flag waving, Ellen tries to persuade Raven to give up his vengeance and uncover an Axis plot.Ladd, Lake and Cregar are all marvelous but the usually wonderful Preston (best known for his smooth con-man in Music Man) isn't given much to work with and his cop character feels flat especially next to Raven.This movie is really a must-see for any fan of 40's films and even with its flaws (I also found the final image to be annoying and totally against Lake's independant character), it is still a pleasant way to pass an evening."
RAVEN A CHILLING SCREEN CREATION
Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 07/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""This Gun For Hire" is a watered down, glammed up version of Graham Greene's novel A Gun for Sale. It represents the first of four cinematic outings that teamed sultry Veronica Lake with the stoically handsome Alan Ladd, a potent cocktail of personalities that proved to be much in demand over the next decade. Perhaps a tad heavy on sentimentality than most film noirs, the plot concerns Philip Raven's (Ladd) obsession with Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a nightclub dancer with a rough and rumble cop boyfriend, Michael Crane (Robert Preston). Ellen is supposed to be working on exposing Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall), a chemical company CEO who sold poisonous gas to the Japanese. But an odd and Freudian driven relationship surfaces between Ellen and Raven when she senses his childhood pain and angst. Ellen becomes Raven's willing captive, in the process transcending his nightmares and making him more human. The very first scene in this film is so incredibly chilling it begs special mention. After having been double crossed by ne'er-do-well, Williard Gates (Laird Cregar), Raven (Ladd) contemplates killing an innocent little girl who has seen him. Even though the resulting decision is typical "golden age" morality, Ladd makes one believe, if only for a moment, that such cold blooded silencing might be possible.
THE TRANSFER: Universal's DVD transfer is remarkably solid and clean. The gray scale is very well balanced with deep solid blacks and whites that are almost pristine. There's a hint film grain and some age related artifacts. Also, some edge enhancement and pixelization occur, but nothing that will distract from a visual presentation that is a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes. The audio is mono and very well represented.
BOTTOM LINE: There are no extras on this disc. Nevertheless, it is a good disc to add to your library of classic cinema."
Greed, Patriotism & Murder Intermingle in WWII-era Film Noir
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 04/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""This Gun for Hire" is an early film noir adapted from the novel by Graham Greene. Phillip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a stone-faced assassin whose only sympathies seem to lie with cats. He murders a blackmailer for industrialist Alvin Brewster, but Brewster's assistant Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) pays him in "hot" money. When Raven spends one of the $10 bills, it puts the police on his trail. In the meantime, lovely nightclub singer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) has been approached by a Senator who is investigating Brewster's collaboration with enemy powers. The Senator asks her to take a job at Willard Gates' Los Angeles nightclub in order to spy on him. She accepts the mission, and leaves for L.A. on the same train that Raven is taking to flee town. Gates see Raven and Ellen together on the train and assumes she's in cahoots with Raven, who's determined to kill Gates' for setting the police on him. Ellen's boyfriend, police Lieutenant Michael Crane (Robert Preston) follows them to L.A. in pursuit of Raven, whom Brewster and Gates claim robbed their payroll.
If the plot sounds convoluted, it is. That's just the set-up. Every character is either ignorant or mistaken about the others' role in this web of treachery. Ellen is privy to the most information, but she can't tell anyone. Veronica Lake has a lot of charisma, even if Ellen's role is convoluted. Ellen is a different thing to every person in the film, to the extent that the audience has to think at times to keep it all straight. It's interesting that she plays the role of a femme fatale to the assassin Raven, but her actions are selfless and righteous. Ellen isn't an ambitious seductress; she's a steadfast, practical woman who loves her boyfriend, her country, and wants a family. Raven is the film's protagonist, but he's a bad guy, so when Ellen manipulates him, it's a good thing. It's not a good thing for Raven, who suffers for having acted selflessly for once. Alan Ladd gives a wonderful performance that makes Raven ruthless, cruel, and frightening, but not at all superficial. Laird Cregar is also memorable as the thoroughly criminal Gates, who nevertheless abhors violence and loves peppermints.
"This Gun for Hire" has a mixture of indoor and outdoor location scenes. Its undisguised allusion to film noir's gothic roots surprised me. There is a sequence in Willard Gates' gothic mansion that takes place at night during a thunderstorm. It could have been the set of a gothic horror picture. I halfway expected a lecherous nobleman or terror-stricken maiden to come running into the scene. Of course, Gates and Ellen are a perversion of that theme. The gothic theatrics are eye-catching and a little creepy. "This Gun for Hire" is an entertaining World War II-era noir with a memorable cast of characters.
The DVD (Universal 2004 release): There are no bonus features. Captioning is available in English for the hearing impaired. Subtitles are available in Spanish and French."
A Satisfying Ladd/Lake Noir
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 08/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a straight-forward, linear, quick-moving story based on a much more interesting book. But it's still an entertaining movie, and probably close to required viewing if you enjoy noir and/or Forties movies.
Raven (Alan Ladd) is a hired killer, evidently without remorse or nerves, who is paid to knock off a blackmailer. The blackmailer was trying to take to the cleaners a corrupt industrialist who was coincidentally helping the enemy. (This is during WWII.) However, Raven is paid in counterfeit bills on the assumption the police will catch him when he spends the money. He discovers the plot and decides to take out the guy who hired him and the fellow, the industrialist, who was behind it all.
The movie bills Veronica Lake and Robert Preston above the title, Laird Cregar just below the title, and Alan Ladd last in big type as "Introducing Alan Ladd." Some introduction; according to IMDb, Ladd had already appeared in more than 40 films in unbilled and minor parts.
This was Ladd's breakthrough movie and he's very good in it. I don't think he was much of an actor, but he had a lot of star presence, especially in the movies he made in the Forties. There was always something passive but potentially dangerous about him. His looks could have kept him in the pretty boy category, but for whatever reason didn't. Veronica Lake, for me, is something of an acquired taste, but for whatever reason she and Ladd made an effective pairing that was repeated several times. Laird Cregar played the heavy, and he was an interesting actor. Big and fleshy, he was something of a Raymond Burr type but more versatile. Robert Preston is seldom mentioned in regard to this movie and this must have ticked him off. Here's a guy who usually played best friend of the lead, gets a good part as the lead in a solid movie -- and winds up being over-shadowed by Ladd.
The first five minutes or so of the movie are among the most efficient I've come across in establishing a major player's character and complexities. We first see Raven waking up in his rented rooms and checking the clock. Nothing out of the ordinary there. In very short order, however, he's taken a gun out, helped a stray kitten get into his room and given it some food, slapped hard and full in the face a maid who tried to kick out the cat, showed up at the blackmailer's place where he meets the blackmailer (who was supposed to be alone); the blackmailer has his "secretary" with him so he just kills them both; on the way out a little girl on the stairs asks him to get her ball which has rolled away; she sees his face, he obviously thinks about shooting her, too -- but gets the ball for her and leaves. In just a few minutes Raven's cold ruthlessness and his conflicts are established, and so is a sort of sympathy for him. These first few minutes, in my view, are what make the movie work.
The DVD transfer is very good. There are no extras.
I hope sometime soon we get DVDs of two other first rate Ladd/Lake noir pairings, The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia."