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.
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.