This stylistically audacious, seminal "rural noir" from director Joseph H. Lewis placed American reverence for firearms in its crosshairs, unloading a sociopathic/erotic crime spree — and setting the template for subsequent lovers-on-the-run thrillers like Bonnie and Clyde.


TIFF Cinematheque

Gun Crazy

Joseph H. Lewis

Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Warner Bros., Joseph H. Lewis's B-movie masterpiece is a landmark of film noir, its couple-on-the-run scenario and hard-boiled-meets-high-formalist aesthetic paving the way for such New Hollywood classics as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde and Terrence Malick's Badlands.

Crack shot Bart Tare (John Dall) has loved guns since childhood, and when he meets tough-talking sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) at a local carnival, it's love at the end of a sight. The dead-eyed duo are quickly married, but the avaricious Laurie soon tires of scraping by and convinces Bart to join her in a series of holdups, promising him that no one will get hurt. Naturally, Laurie soon breaks that promise, and the FBI is hot on the gun crazy couple's trail. As the law closes in, the doomed lovers take to the hills, unable to part ways or dodge the inevitable.

Co-scripted by MacKinlay Kantor and blacklisted Hollywood Ten screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (behind the name of Millard Kaufman, author of the story on which the film was based), Gun Crazy gave virtuosic director Lewis a prime opportunity to show off his stylistic chops: his one-take heist sequence, seen from the backseat of a getaway car, has since been recognized as a classic. Even more impressive is the remarkably frank eroticism he manages to conjure from the pairing of Dall (best known as one of the preppy thrill-killers in Hitchcock's Rope) and Cummins, whose ruthless femme fatale is a high-calibre combination of seething anger and unbridled sexuality. "If you had to select a single film to justify the present enthusiasm for film noir and define its allure, few movies could compete with Gun Crazy" (Richard T. Jameson).


35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved in cooperation with Warner Bros. from the original 35mm picture and track negatives.


Mon Sep 09

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