Out of the Past

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) is a small time man in a small time town, a gas station worker with no real future in sight. But while his future is bland, his past is even darker and after some time, his past has returned. Just when he thinks he has left the past behind, he is ordered to meet with Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). A man from Bailey’s past, Sterling is a well funded gambler who has deep connections with organized crime. This meeting has roots in the events of the past, but could have a profound impact on the future of both men. His girlfriend Ann (Virginia Houston) travels with him to this meeting, at which time Bailey reveals his past to her. Some time back, Bailey worked as a private detective and his services were once hired by Sterling. His mistress Kathie (Jane Greer) had turned on him and left him with a fierce gunshot wound, not to mention that she left with forty-thousand dollars of his cash. So Bailey was hired to track her down in Acapulco, but the plan didn’t unfold just as either man expected. Kathie used her feminine wiles to make Bailey forget about his tasks at hand, which enraged Sterling to no end. Now, he is certain this meeting is a trap by which Sterling can extract some revenge. But is the meeting just to settle an old score, or is there more than meets the eye with this return to the past?

This is one of the true classics of film noir, a motion picture that even the most casual of film fans cannot afford to miss. In truth, you could use Out of the Past as a blueprint for the perfect film noir, it is that damn good. Jacques Tourneur directs with immense skill, turning every genre staple with ease and never letting his film movie stray from his vision. I do suppose the romance angle is the weak link in Out of the Past, but given the film’s dark nature, I think that is how romance should have been handled. These characters wouldn’t ease into love and affection, the process would be fast and rushed, just as Tourneur presents here. You have to credit Geoffrey Homes as well, since he wrote the impeccable and timeless dialogue. The lines come fast and furious, but all hit with full impact and work to perfection. But the true force behind Out of the Past has to be Robert Mitchum, who provides perhaps the greatest performance in film noir, period. He is cool, tough, and unpredictable, but he also manages to show a softer side at times. He dominates the screen here and while his costars are also superb, he outshines them all here. All in all, a true classic that deserves a place in any film collection. I wish this was one of Warner’s two disc Special Edition releases, but the movie is so good, the rather basic treatment is overlookable

Video: How does it look?

Out of the Past is presented in full frame, as intended. I had some worries about the film would look, since it is over five decades old, but Warner has risen to the challenge and issued a terrific visual presentation. The print used has no serious flaws, with only minor grain, marks, and other defects to report, which is splendid news indeed. The lack of print flaws allows for a clean, sharp image that should please all viewers, especially those who’ve viewed the film in previous, poorer editions. The black & white visuals are stark and on the mark here, thanks to smooth black levels that never obscure detail in the least. A full scale restoration would be excellent, but even without that, the movie looks solid here.

Audio: How does it sound?

I don’t think the audio here will become anyone’s new showcase track, but given the material involved, it is a solid overall treatment. Although time has done some damage, the materials remain in good condition and no serious issues were found. The sound effects come through loud and clear, while the musical score is a little thin, but acceptable. No troubles with dialogue either, all the vocals are clean, crisp, and always at the proper volume. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

James Ursini, film noir expert and author, provides an audio commentary track, but don’t even bother with this session. He covers the obvious elements of the genre, but spends little time on more in depth insights. In other words, the lone supplement here is a waste of time, which is a shame for such an acclaimed motion picture.

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