Gun Crazy (Blu-ray)

June 4, 2018 9 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

“Bart, we’re in real trouble this time.”

Warner Bros Archive Collection has done an excellent job of becoming one of the premier distributors for film noir enthusiasts. Over the past few years they have steadily been releasing noir films from their collection with titles like The Big Sleep and Out of the Past. If you are a film noir lover, this is a real blessing because all of these films are being very delicately preserved. This year they. Hose to announce and release the 1950 black and white Gun Crazy. When I looked in the forums people were losing their minds about this film saying how excited they were. Upon receiving my copy, I sat down to see if they were shooting me straight.

As the film begins, a kid in the rain stares at a gun through a window. He breaks the window and steals the gun. When he drops the gun, a stranger picks it up and the boy is sent to court. His sister defends him. The kid, Bart, is obsessed with guns. In a flashback it is shown that as a boy he killed a chicken with a BB gun. Since then he has not killed anything. His two best friends arrive in court and testify on his behalf. He had even shown restraint and refused to shoot a mountain lion when he had the chance. The judge sentences Bart to a reformatory school until he comes of age. Upon his release and after serving in the military, Bart (John Dall) contacts his sister and his two friends, who are now a reporter and a police officer. Bart goes with his friends to a carnival where he meets a beautiful crack shot named Annie Starr (Peggy Cummins.) When he shows her up in a competition, he gets a job with the carnival. After he steals her affection from her overbearing and infatuated boss, they are both fired. Bart and Annie immediately get married. It isn’t long before Annie’s ambition and hunger for more wealth leads Bart into a life of crime and away from his strong sense of values.

This movie is awesome. Easily one of the most entertaining noir films that one can watch, Gun Crazy shines for numerous reasons. The settings in the film are interesting, from rain drenched streets, to carnivals, to marriage chapels alongside the highway; the sense of setting is always intriguing and a bit surreal. Part of the surrealism comes from the fact that much of this film is set in different sound stages that make great use of light, shadow, and fog when necessary. When the film is off a soundstage it is shot in a rush with long takes and cameras attached to the backs of cars. A fatal robbery in the final third of the film in particular is really intricate filmmaking. The director, Joseph H. Lewis, obviously had seen Citizen Kane and was ready to utilize some of its tricks – my favorite being a scene where the two lovers are holed up in a shack as it snows outside. The snow effect is made through layering a shot of the snow falling on top of the shot outside that pans into the window. Cinematographer Russell Harlan shows his skills time and time again throughout the film, and while it may not be quite as striking as Out of the Past, it has a great visual flair of its own.

The performances by John Dall and Peggy Cummins are very enjoyable. The better of the two actors is Peggy Cummins who when she is wearing that cowboy outfit in the carnival may have my favorite femme fatale entrance of all time. This lady can light matches with her bullets! How can an audience not love that (and her.) John Dall is strong as the leading man who is torn between doing right and his love for his wife. While the acting is a little campy at times, it never hurts the film. It may actually enhance the film.

Like many film noirs, this film falls into the moral tragedy category. It is obvious from the outset that if they veer off the path of righteousness the world will drag them down. Like other great noir films, it is all about the ways in which they get dragged down.

If you are in the mood for one of the most entertaining film noirs imaginable, Gun Crazy gets my vote for one of the best noir releases to arrive this year.

Video: How’s it look?

Warner Bros. did a fantastic job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration in detailed and glorious Black and White. It has become obvious over the last couple years that Warner is one of the best in the field when restoring black and white films. While there are a few instances where the contrast is a little drowned out by light, this transfer is near perfect. Clarity is excellent. The cinematography by Russell Harlan is very stylized and fluid in its camera movement. This leads to this film benefitting heavily by the royal treatment given by Warner. Fans should be ecstatic.

Audio: How’s it sound?

A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has been provided and it’s an effective mix. As a mono track, front speakers are used for the entire mix. Clarity is solid. I did not detect any dropouts or overbearing hiss. This is not the most robust mix imaginable, but the score does benefit from the mix. This track is great overall at preserving the overall quality of the original recording.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Commentary with Glenn Erickson – a film noir expert who writes under the moniker of DVD Savant online, Erickson is knowledgeable and informative. Thentrack does sound like he is rushing to tell as much as possible, but I didn’t mind the cadence overall. I enjoyed this track, but some of the information feels dated now. This was originally on the 2004 DVD release.
  • Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (480i, 1:07:37) James Ellroy, Henry Rollins, Kim Newman, Graeme Revell, Janusz Kaminski, Sidney Pollack, Frank Miller, Haden Guest, Eddie Muller, Glenn Erickson, Christopher McQuarrie, Paul Schrader, Carol Littleton, Newton Thomas Sigel, Christopher Nolan, and more talk over clips from films like The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past, The Asphalt Jungle, and many other films to discuss film noir. Really enjoyable piece that seems cobbled together from numerous interviews that broached the subject. This 2006 documentary was originally included in Warner’s Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 3.

The Bottom Line

Gun Crazy is a film noir that is relentlessly entertaining. With one of the best femme fatales ever out to screen, tremendous cinematography, off-the-wall settings, and a fast pace from the beginning to the end, this film gets my highest approval. Warner have provided an absolutely beautiful transfer of the film and they have provided two enjoyable supplements. I highly recommend adding this to your library!

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