Let me get right to the heart of the matter. The 1950 Film-Noir “Gun Crazy” is one hell of a movie. A thrilling movie with amazing camerawork including a legendary shot-in-one-take bank robbery done entirely from the backseat of a car. I first saw “Gun Crazy” two years ago, and it really left an impression on me. Last night I revisited the film in a wonderful new blu-ray edition from Warner Archive that is a must own.
Based upon a short story by MacKinlay Kantor, who adapted the story for the screen along with then blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, burrowing the name of writer Millard Kaufman for the on-screen credit, “Gun Crazy” is the story of two kids in love. From an early age, Bart Tare (John Dall) has been fascinated by and coveting guns. After breaking into a storefront window to obtain one, Bart is tried and sent off to reform school.
After a stint in the Army, Bart returns to his hometown. His gun cravings are still very much present, and we see as an adult that Bart has become something of a crack shot. Bart’s childhood friends, one of whom is now Sheriff, takes Bart to the carnival. There they go see Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), who is the sideshow’s crack shot. Annie challenges anyone in the audience to outshoot her. Bart takes up the challenge, what follows is a sexually charged contest that has them both lusting for one another.
Bonded by their love for firearms, Bart and Annie become a couple. The pair run away from the carnival life, and Annie makes a declaration to Bart. She doesn’t want a simple life of house care and child raising. She wants to live, and she wants to rob banks to do so. Annie tells Bart to join her in a life of crime, or they’re through. Bart, who can’t overcome his desire for her, agrees.
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis, “Gun Crazy” is just as impressive today as it was in 1950.
“Gun Crazy” truly does amaze on the new blu-ray release with features a brand-new 1080p scan of the film that looks fantastic. Last time I saw “Gun Crazy” was on TV, and I remember some shots being a little soft looking. This new blu-ray from Warner Archive is sharp, clear, and stunning.
Bonus material on this blu-ray includes a commentary by Film Author Glenn Erickson and a full-length documentary “Film-Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light.” Both are a nice touch on an excellent blu-ray of a film truly worthy of celebrating, a landmark that paved the way for 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” earning a place on the national film registry in 1998.
As something of a pallet cleanser, I took a walk through Warner Archive’s back catalog and found a new-to-me MGM musical from 1948, “Luxury Liner.” As celebrated as the MGM musical is, and you think of the biggies like “Singin’ in The Rain” and “Meet Me In St. Louis,” you forget just how many signature musicals the studio made. “Luxury Liner” stars the adorable Jane Powell and was a hit upon its release, but it’s one that’s kind of fallen through the cracks. Which is a shame as it’s a delightful slice of escapist fun.
Powell plays the daughter of a cruise liner captain (George Brent) who comes to visit his daughter at college. Our captain takes his daughter to see a local production of the opera “Aida” where she becomes fascinated by the talents of the two stars of the production. After her father refuses to bring her along on the next voyage, which she begs to come along on after she learns the two stars will be on board, Powell sneaks on board as a stowaway. The rest of just pure MGM musical magic as a light and fun time transpires on that kind of epic and lush sets that only Hollywood could create as a steam liner.
“Luxury Liner” is one of a handful of MGM films that feature real-life opera star, Lauritz Melchior. I mentioned how odd I thought it was MGM tried to make a film star of the Wagnerian to friend and fellow film writer Jessica Pickens—whose work you can find at cometoverhollywood.com— Jessica told me that it was not odd at all. “MGM head Louis B. Mayer liked class so he would sign stars like Melchior to give the appearance of high art,” she said. Warner Archive’s DVD of “Luxury Liner” looks great, using a very clean and color-rich print of the Technicolor musical that is more than acceptable to watch. A really nice job of a deep catalog title.
So there you have it, my friends. Another walk through the deep vaults of Warner Archive. What spoils us film fans have these days that we can get movies like “Gun Crazy” on blu-ray, and then turn around and dig in the deeper well of MGM with musicals like “Luxury Liner.” Both are a good time, and I hope you’ll check them out. See you next week.