Gun Crazy (1950)

Guns = sex. Gun Crazy probably comes as close as a film shot in the US at the end of the 1940s could to stating that equation outright. Our “hero” is mad for guns and is a brilliant shot, but he cannot bring himself to kill any living thing; this will prove to be his tragic flaw, just as the years spent in reform school and military service prove to do absolutely piss all to “cure” him of his gun fascination. But our “heroine” is a far more dangerous proposition; she’s a carnival shootist with far less compunction about using her firearms against people, and that’ll wind up being her tragic flaw. This is noir we’re talking about, things can’t end but badly… I’m not too familiar with Joseph Lewis’ work, but on the evidence of this he had some skill at negotiating his way around small indie film budgets, filling this one full of pace and stuff going on, and doing some neat visual things; look at the famous Hampton robbery scene, which is executed as a single very long take filmed entirely from the back seat of a car, but there are lots of other little moments that Lewis stages in a subtly “off” way. But John Dall and Peggy Cummins as the gun-happy small town boy and the English rose fatale can’t be discounted either, with their performances contributing so much as well; they bring these two odd characters to life and demonstrate a real chemistry on screen. Terrific stuff, obviously a B film but one determined to overcome the usual limitations. Incidentally, the DVD commentary offers an amusing thought: the credited scriptwriter of the film, Millard Kaufman, was actually a front for the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, and Lewis himself may never have realised who his real writer was…

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