Everything you want in a film noir you'll find in Out of the Past. A tenacious detective (Robert Mitchum) spinning his wheels to make good. A drop-dead beauty (Jane Greer) up to no good. A moneyed mobster (Kirk Douglas) with a shark's grin. Plus double-crosses and fall guys. Shadowy rooms and bleak souls.
Mitchum solidified his tough-guy persona in this archetypal film noir directed with memorable style by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie). He plays Jeff Bailey, a one-time private investigator walking the straight and narrow of small-town life...until an acquaintance from his past pulls him back into the troubles he'd left behind. "Build my gallows high, baby," Bailey sneers as events stack up against him. With dialogue like that and much more, Out of the Past builds its reputation high.
Eternal icon of cool Robert Mitchum is at his sad-eyed, world-weary finest in OUT OF THE PAST (aka BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH), one of the true classics of postwar American film noir. Mitchum stars as existential antihero Jeff Markham, a retired private detective with a shady past who is hoping for a fresh start with a new name, a new love, and a new job running a small gas station in a rural California town. But Jeff's past comes back to haunt him in the guise of menacing gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas, in only his second big screen role), who had hired Markham to track down his double-crossing moll, Kathie (Jane Greer, in definitive femme-fatale mode), after she had shot him and absconded with $40,000 of his money. The trio's entangled history is revealed via flashback and voice-over narration that includes some of the snappiest dialogue in film-noir history ("You're like an autumn leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another"), which, along with Jacques Tourneur's moody direction and Nicholas Musuraca's shadowy cinematography, underscore the story's tragic aura of fate and predestination.
A private eye named Jeff, about to die from a bullet wound, tells the story of how he came to his violent end. In flashback, we see how it all began... Whit, a gangster with a penchant for robbery, hires Jeff to find a particular double-crossing dame: Kathie, the gal who shot Whit, left him for dead and took off with forty grand. Jeff finds her in Acapulco, but instead of turning her in, he falls in love--and that's a mistake he never should have made.
Doomed Lovers |
Essential Cinema |
Film Noir |
Love Affairs |
Love Story |
Love Triangle |
Love Triangles |
Theatrical Release |
OUT OF THE PAST was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991.
The Turner videocassette is part of the "RKO Collection."
Remade in 1984 as "Against All Odds."
Copyright 1947 RKO Pictures; Renewed 1975 RKO General, Inc.