"Robert Mitchum stars in "Out of the Past" as Jeff Bailey. As the film opens, he is the owner of a small town gas station; he's romancing a beautiful girl (Virginia Huston) and his life seems idyllic. However, a stranger arrives looking for Bailey, and everything changes irrevocably. The story is told partially in flashback - enumerating his past with a cutthroat gangster (Kirk Douglas) and a mysterious moll (Jane Greer) - and partially in the present as his past ensnares him into a complicated morass of murder and revenge.
"Out of the Past" is a quintessential 1940s film noir, right up there with "Double Indemnity" and "The Maltese Falcon," although it's arguably not as well known as those classics. The script is whip-smart and filled with brilliant dialogue - a character asserts to Bailey, "Don't you see you've only me to make deals with now?" and Bailey shoots back, "Build my gallows high, baby." Each scene is perfectly shot with an abundance of ambience; director Jacques Tourneur specialized in moody films, such as "I Walked with a Zombie," and he certainly scores here. The plot is full of crosses and double-crosses - it's admittedly not one of the most complex film noirs; however, the characters are perfectly etched, and the film builds to a heartbreaking conclusion.
In 1991, "Out of the Past" was inducted into the National Film Registry, which protects important American films. The film clearly deserves this honor and fortunately will be preserved for future generations of film noir fans. Overall, "Out of the Past" is one of the best film noirs I've seen and a top-notch movie in every way. Most highly recommended.
DVD extras: the main extra is a somewhat dry but informative commentary by James Ursini, an author noted for writing about film noir.
Classic Film Noir
Kathy Fennessy | 10/29/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This classic film noir, featuring the twin cleft-chinned presences of
Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, has got to be one of the most
enjoyable ever made. It's not the somewhat confusing plot, but the
snappy dialogue -- and the confident acting -- which makes it work so
well. The repartee ("A woman with a rod is like a man with a
knitting needle") is worthy of some of the best screwball
comedies and yet it's just as dark as a noir should be in terms of the
desperate things the characters do and the terrible things that happen
to them as a consequence. Jacques Tourneur ("Cat People",
"I Walked With a Zombie") directs with finesse, but the
importance of an ace writer like James M. Cain ("The Postman
Always Rings Twice") -- uncredited for some reason -- can't be
stressed enough. He deserves as much credit for the success of the
film as Tourneur, Mitchum, Douglas, and shapely femme fatale Jane
Greer, the woman who seduces both Mitchum and Douglas -- rod in hand. "
The Mother of All Film Noir Crime Dramas
Robert I. Hedges | 02/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best examples of Film Noir ever produced. Everything about the production is dark and troubling, yet so fascinating that you can't turn away. The trio of Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas are central to the plot, and all are brilliant in their roles. Mitchum is perfect as the cool and smart former Private Investigator turned gas station owner who finds out that he still has entanglements from his previous life, Kirk Douglas is the absolute embodiment of a cold, calculating career criminal, and beautiful Jane Greer manages to ensnare everyone in her web of mystery and deceit.This is the ultimate intellectual crime drama, and a viewing of this film could teach contemporary directors how suspense is supposed to be executed. The plot is so intricate and involved that I won't even discuss it, other than to say this: pay attention. The abrupt plot twists rarely, if ever, turn out like a first time viewer would expect, and the suspense created by director Jacques Tourneur is palpable.The DVD is going to be released soon, and I will be sure to augment my VHS copy with the new DVD. This film really is one of the classics of American cinema, and is definitely as absorbing and engrossing as anything made in the last fifty years. For a wild and suspenseful ride, with a plot full of twists, turns, and surprises until the very end, don't miss "Out of the Past!""
"Build my gallows high, baby"
weirdo_87 | Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA | 04/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Film Noir. It is an odd, misunderstood, somewhat underappreciated genre. The genre is also widespread, with dramas and even some comedies having elements of the genre. Which films are the best examples of this group? "The Maltese Falcon", "Double Indemnity" and "Chinatown" are certainly good choices, but what about "Out of the Past"? For one thing, it has everything that defines this dark, unorthodox genre. A private detective (Robert Mitchum's Jeff Markam, who goes under the alias Bailey), a female fatale (Jane Greer's Kathie Moffett), a dangerous yet charismatic bad guy (Kirk Douglas's Whit Sterling), memorable dialogue ("Baby, I don't care") and amazing cinematography, which combined with the direction can produce many stunning moments. My favorite is the scene where Jeff first goes to Whit's residence. He is actually outside the gate entrance, yet with the way shadows and lighting are used, it seems he could be standing inside. Another example is during the opening credits, when those of Producer Warren Duff and Director Jacques Tourneur are framed as though they are sitting next to the driver of a car. The film has two other trademarks of film noirs. First the flashback. Here Jeff, who is now a gas station owner, tells his current girlfriend Anne about a business deal he made a few years back with Whit Sterling. Sterling was looking for his wife Kathie, who had recently tried to kill him and stole from him $40,000. Whit wants her back, yet says he doesn't want the money. He is obviously lying. He wants to see if he can use her, though he never states so. He also, as Jeff learned, knows that the forty grand is nothing compared with her. Jeff finds the girl in Mexico and trouble begins. She kills a man named Fisher, who works for Sterling, while he was fighting Jeff (Another great visual image, for during the brawl the shadows across the room were lit up and looked like giants). As a result, she has to leave. Then the story goes back to the present, where Jeff meets Sterling and his apparent wife: Kathie. This is where the second trademark begins: Plot changing. I was able to keep up with the story for awhile, but I was eventually lost in a barrage of murders, double crosses and other twists and turns. But this is part of the fun of this and other film noirs. I dare anybody to logically be able to tell me the entire plot of "The Big Sleep". I mentioned that this movie is full of great dialogue. Here are some of my favorites. Jeff: My Name is Jeff Markam, and I haven't talked to anybody who hasn't tried to sell me something for ten days. Jeff: I sell gasoline, I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living. Whit: My feelings? About ten years ago, I hid them somewhere and haven't been able to find them. Whit: I fire people but nobody quits me. You started this and you'll end it. Jeff: That's one way to be clever. Look like an idiot. "Out of the Past" is an overall great movie. For one thing, where else could you see Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, two top Hollywood stars of the late `40s-`50s? (And two of my favorite actors) Add in a beautiful Jane Greer, some style and wit and you'll want to add this to your collection. No film buff's library is complete without it."
Out Of the Past , a Great Movie a Must to Watch.
John Edward Wright | Blue Mountains Australia | 01/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The movie " Out of the Past " relates to the classic Film Nior in the purest of forms. The story centres around three central characters played by Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer & Kirk Douglas interestedly appearing in his second movie role . The supporting characters also add to the movie allowing the creation of a film classic rated 5 STAR all the way. The direction, cinematography, script, and acting are professionally brought together into a scheming mass of cross and double cross. The result a classic.The outstanding character has to go to Kathie Moffit's [ Jane Greer] role as the feme fatele. Ms Greer without doubt acted her way through this picture taking command in all scenes making the others look ordinary even Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in this picture fall into second and third place behind this remarkable actress and brillant performance. Literally changing persons in each scene, soft beautiful mistress to a take control woman who simply manipulates the men in her life without thought or mercy. Mitchum is as always superb as the private detective who takes on a job [ told through flashback ] travels through Mexico and falls in love with the very subject he has set out to return to crime boss Whit Sterling played by Kirk Douglas. They escape from Acapulco to San Francisco hoping not to be discovered however, they are by Mitchum's former partner who follows the "Dame" to a small cabin where he is killed through a punch it out fist fight with Mitchum, only to be gunned down and murdered by Kathie Moffit. Mitchum is left to "Dump the Body " and assumes a new role in life one of a owner of a small town filling station. Once again he is discovered by Whit's connections and brought into the greatest double whammy of all time with murder and double cross cumulating in a surprising ending on a country road not unlike the Bonnie and Clyde movie some 15 years later.Supporting roles add to the movie's success.Virginia Houston playing Ann the country town girl dominated by her parents but falling for Robert Mitchum, the secretive "Jeff Bailey" alas Jeff Markam the guy who's wrong for her all the way. Rhonda Fleming portrays a dishonest secretary who double deals, with her boss paying the price with his life and the "Set Up" to frame Robert Mitchum, her goal is to only get some fast cash not caring who she messes up along the way. Well played.Dickie Moore plays the "KID" a deaf mute filling station attendant who has a strong loyalty to Mitchum that no words can describe. The kid shown in the opening scenes with gunmen Joe Stephanos[played by Paul Valentine] is being treated with disdain and arrogance. In the final scenes Joe tracks Robert Mitchum to an isolated fishing spot by following the KID and climbs to a high vantage point above the river to take aim with a his 45 automatic, he is pulled suddenly by the kid from the high ledge falling to his death in the river. The kid simply used his fishing line and hook to do the job saving Robert Mitchum.Greatstuff.This movie is wonderful in every aspect a great piece of Hollywood, great acting, suburb dialogue and the use of a simple story with plot and counter plot, hidden agenda's and the use of lighting and shadows to their fullest."