Thursday, August 19, 2004

DVD: Out of the Past (1947)

Most movies are eminently forgettable. A few are pleasant ways to pass a couple of hours. An even smaller number become fixtures in your life. You revisit them, quote from them, judge people on whether they like them.

And then there are the handful that go even deeper. You don’t merely live with these movies. You live by them.

“It was the bottom of the barrel, and I scraped it. But I didn’t care. I had her.”

“That isn’t the way to play.”
“Why not?”
“Because it isn’t the way to win.”
“Is there a way?”
“There’s a way to lose more slowly.”

“You look like you’re in trouble.”
“Because you don’t act like it.”

“We seemed to live by night. What was left of the day went away like a pack of cigarettes you smoked.”

“You can never help anything, can you? You’re like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another.”

“I don’t want to die.”
“Neither do I, baby. But if I have to, I’m gonna die last.”

I can now listen to that dialogue anytime I want, because OUT OF THE PAST is finally on DVD. The essential film noir. Romance curdling into obsession, everybody cracking wise until somebody dies. Because, hell, everybody dies.

Jane Greer was only 22 – 22! – when she played the ultimate femme fatale. Kirk Douglas is electrifying in his second screen appearance. And then there’s Mitchum. Delivering most of the dialogue quoted above in a style all his own.

The DVD transfer looks terrific. Noir expert James Ursini delivers an informative commentary. My only wish: that Warner Brothers had been able to get the rights to the track David Thomson recorded for the laser disc release around 13 years ago. I’ve never heard it, but I’ll bet it’s something. Thomson is one of our finest critics. I was at a screening where he delivered a rousing introduction to Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE a few years ago, and he doesn’t even like the movie. I’d love to hear him rhapsodize about the film he calls “a lasting joy,” and one I will watch until I am very, very old.

TV: Living in TV Land With Dick Van Patten

With all the poker that’s on TV, I demand to know why this event was not televised in its entirety.

Miscellaneous: Link

Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America, offers unproduced teleplays from names like Charlie Kaufman and William Link.

Miscellaneous: Overheard

“Omigod! He looks like a little Ewok!”
“Really? I thought he looked like a Gremlin.”

Were they talking about a toddler or a dog? Your guess is as good as mine.