|Title:||Born to Kill|
|08.30.06||DVD|| I read about these guys like Richard Widmark and Dan Duryea being really nice guys in real life... helping animals, enjoying sunsets, that sort of thing. Well from what I've read and heard over the years I have no problem believing or even suspecting that Lawrence Tierney has probably stabbed at least one man, woman or child to death... and probably for something small like spilling water on his shoe or looking at him wrong on the subway.|
Here he plays a thug names Sam Wilde who kills pretty much indiscriminately... whether it's a guy who happens to date a girl he wants, or the girl he wants if she sees the guy he's just killed... or his lifelong pal if he walks into a girl's room. It's all willy nilly to him, except he knows enough to blow town after this first double murder (interestingly enough, the girl's name is Laurie Palmer), so he goes to San Francisco where coincidentally he runs into Claire Trevor. Trevor plays a black widow with ice in most of her veins who walked in on the two bodies but didn't call the cops. She represents what all of us smart sensitive nice-guy types hate: the smoking hot woman turned on by bad boy thugs... taken to the extreme. She's all set up to marry this complete rich guy gentleman but gets all wibbily wobbily in the knees whenever Tierney walks in the room. When Tierney figures out that Trevor only wanted him for slummy afternoon rendezvous on the side, he goes after Trevor's step-sister, a freakin gorgeous rich girl played by Audrey Long. And hence the stage is set for these bad people married to good spouses but really hot for eachother.
Tierney's motive for marrying the rich girl isn't so much the money but rather thesocial class that it gives him, telling sidekick pal Elisha Cook, Jr. that he'll be able to "spit in anyone's eye" and get away with it. Cook is great as the guy who realizes what kind of trouble Tierney can get into but constantly has to agree and stroke Tierney's ego to stay alive himself. I can't help but watch his performance and imagine that's how the more timid directors of the era handled Tierney as well. I guess unless you've got an eyepatch or shoot off a gun instead of yelling "action" the fear of getting shivved for suggesting more emotion from the man might keep you rather agreeable. I hope that's not the case with Robert Wise though... but it must be easier when Tierney's playing this kind of role. Claire Trevor seems like she does a fine job of acting this heartless moral-free femme fatale but seems the type to love puppy dogs and ice cream in real life. Tierney's just showing up and acting normal.
His idea of sweet talk is a mix between badgering and insulting. Every woman in this picture swoons over him though... even though his only two emotions are 1) uninterested thug, and 2)i think i may have to kill you while you sleep. It makes the love scenes pretty interesting though, dealing with either of those two looks. It's also great when Tierney and Trevor come together and heat themselves up by calling each other hayes-code equivalents of bastards and bitches... but in one particularly steamy interlude while they whisper sweet nothings about the grotesque state of those two bodies, Tierney shows his hand by getting a bit too detailed. For a while Trevor is more in love than ever now that she knows he's a full-on murderer, but then things get complicated.
This movie isn't very flashy and I haven't seen it on many top 10 lists for noirs, but it really covers all the bases incredibly well. The few nice, morally-upright people end up dead, terrorized, or driven to tears and all the bad people kind of self-destruct. One interesting touch is the role of the private detective, who at first seems to be just as slimy as everyone else but then takes this really odd biblical narrator tone toward the end. I'd really be unnerved if someone told my story using an overweight ethically-questional private dick as the mouthpiece to the audience... but the more I think about it... it could be kinda cool.
Hooray for noir!