Pulp Corner: Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy also known as Deadly Is The Female from 1950 is one of those movies I’ve been waiting to watch for a while. I hadn’t indulged in a good noir in some time and have had this movie on the back burner. The older I get though, the more I feel like I’m always being let down by movies, books, music whatever. I don’t know if I’m becoming a crotchety old man or if I’ve raised the bar too high but I watched Gun Crazy last night and it absolutely delivered.
From the opening scene you know you’re getting into something unique as you watch a young man break the glass of a gun store to steal a pistol during a rain storm only to be arrested. It’s shot in such a strangely beautiful way that it’s hard not to get hooked right away. We find out the teenager is Bart, a boy who grew up obsessed with the allure and power of fire arms. This incident cost him a sentence of reform school, which when finished he enrolled into the Army to put his infatuation to good use. When Bart returns home as an adult his friends take him out to the local carnival. It’s here things begin the downward slide that occurs in most film noirs.
Bart sits in at a side show involving female sharp shooter Annie Laure Starr. This scene alone makes the film worthwhile it contains one of the most interesting and sexually provocative scenarios. Bart is elated watching the beautiful Laurie hit her targets, his smile is wide and piercing defying simple joy. When her manager asks if anyone in the crowd is willing to put some money against her to see if she can be outshot, Bart becomes a more than willing participant. He gleefully steps on stage and outshoots her staring her down as he does it. The bizarre but undeniable sexual tension is so strong but by not making it graphic and masking it allows it to be put into a movie from that era.
Impressed with his skills and their instant chemistry Bart joins their troop. For a short little while, we get a noir set in the back stage events of the traveling circus life. This is a subject I find immensely interesting, it doesn’t last long though. (For another noir with that set up check out Nightmare Alley). Their relationship eventually gets them fired from the circus allowing them to go to see the world and get married but just as quickly their money runs out. This doesn’t sit well with Laurie who needs excitement and luxury in her life. Soon she’s able to convince Bart to start planning heists to finance their lives. While both being handy with their steel, Bart isn’t easily convinced. He ultimately agrees only if the guns are never actually fired and used only as a threat.
The rest of the movie evolves into an excellent Bonnie & Clyde type of film (pre dating the 1967 movie but inspiring quite a bit of it) where our two main characters are caught in a vortex of money, lust, greed and necessity as we watch them knock over banks, gas stations and other establishments. Laurie slowly erodes and corrupts Bart’s common sense and non violent ways until the only thing he has left is Laurie and he believes it’s all he needs. It’s the typical Femme Fatale trope of many film noirs, but this one is hard to deny. Peggy Cummins does such an excellent job making angel faced Laurie sweet and curious at first to showing us that she really is rotten to the core. She slips into the role almost too perfectly. Bart is played with wide eyed glee by John Dall fresh off the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rope. A mix of youthful exuberance and gentle optimism his character is fascinating to watch. The pairing of these two doesn’t make sense on paper but excels in the movie.
I realized afterward this movie was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, the man behind The Big Combo. Gun Crazy is another B-Movie but shot so excellently you’d hardly notice. If your looking for an interesting take on a familiar noir or some Bonnie & Clyde type action, I recommend checking this out.
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners. Please click on the “About Us” tab for our takedown policy.
Posted on February 5, 2014, in Features, Movies, Pulp Corner, Reviews and tagged femme fatale, Film Noir, Gun Crazy, Joseph H. Lewis, Peggy Cummins, United Artists. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.