Big Combo

In: Film and Music

Submitted By kalisz
Words 3027
Pages 13
FLST 3160 02 F2 2015 Topics in Film Studies Film Noir
Colin Taylor
Out of the Past

Out of the Past is a 1947 film noir directed by French director Jacques Tourneur from the source novel, “Build My Gallows High” by Daniel Mainwaring and using a script by the author but with hefty additions from the author of The Maltese Falcon, James M Cain as well Frank Fenton, a B-movie writer who rumour has it was responsible for many of the films great one liners. As the AMC film site has it,
“The downbeat screenplay was based on Geoffrey Homes' (a pseudonym - his real name was Daniel Mainwaring) 1946 novel Build My Gallows High, a book that consciously imitated Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1941). (An uncredited James M. Cain wrote some of the script.)”
Tourneur was an established director whose oeuvre was predominantly what we should call B Movies but all of which had a striking visual style. His three most famous movies before Out of the Past, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and The Leopard Man are all about transformation, the night, perversion, the corrosive effects of evil, and the powerful link between violence and sex. Both he and Mainwaring were unapologetic left wingers (Mainwaring had to operate under a pseudonym during the McCarthy witch hunts) who saw evil in greed. Mainwaring’s most famous film script was the “reds under the bed” masterpiece The Invasion of the Body snatchers, another film about changes in people.
Out of the Past is such a rich visual and verbal feast that one has a number of problems in analysing it. This is caused by a number of issues, firstly Tourneur is from a generation of directors for whom every scene and shot clearly counted, and each moment has to be looked at for plot and motivational signposts. Secondly the film itself is open to many interpretations from the superficial (It’s a great romp) to interpretations based…...

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