Releases of public domain films, even on Blu-ray, can be somewhat dangerous. But Kino treats these films as well as they deserve, and even better than their releases of MGM/UA movies. The Chase, a 1946 film noir, is their latest rescue and the disc is a beauty. It’s truly a must-have for noir fans.
Based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel The Black Path of Fear and directed by Arthur D. Ripley, The Chase finds Robert Cummings (Hitchcock’s Saboteur) as Chuck Scott, a veteran who discovers a wallet laying on the ground. Unbeknownst to him, his decision to return the wallet to millionaire Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran, White Heat) will turn out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Many great noirs start off like this, with someone thinking they are doing the right thing only to stumble into a labyrinth of confusion, death, deceit and dangerous women. That’s the case for Chuck in The Chase.
Eddie is a sadist, who tries to control every aspect of his wife’s life. Lorna Roman (Michele Morgan) has had enough and hopes Chuck can help her get to Cuba. Once they arrive, Lorna is killed in a club and Chuck is framed for it. Eddie’s weird henchman Gino (Peter Lorre, of course) is on hand to destroy the evidence that could prove Chuck innocent. During his quest to prove his innocence, Gino kills Chuck! What? There’s still half of the movie left! What’s going on? Why does Chuck suddenly wake up? When did this become a David Lynch movie? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.
The twist of The Chase is so startling and unexpected for even noir that I’m shocked I hadn’t heard of it before. I don’t even recall it coming up for discussion during TCM’s Noir Summer event last year. The performances from Cochran and Lorre are unsettling, as if they came out of a horror movie. Eddie’s literal backseat driving gadget might be the scariest thing I’ve seen in a noir. And Morgan easily moves from sympathetic damsel to femme fetale without difficulty. Cummings, who won an Emmy for his performance in the teleplay version of 12 Angry Men, is great as the conflicted veteran who wants to do good but is pulled towards the bad.
Kino included a few features for The Chase, including a new commentary from filmmaker Guy Maddin and two radio adaptations of the Woolrich novel. One stars Brian Donlevy and the other features Cary Grant. They both run about a half hour. There’s also a handful of trailers for noirs Kino has released.
The Chase is a fantastic and weird noir that I’m not sure how I hadn’t heard of before. There’s a lot of entertainment packed into its 86 minutes and it’s definitely recommended. This is one you’ll want to re-watch.
Thanks to Kino for providing the Blu-ray to review! You can also watch the movie on YouTube below, the Blu-ray’s restoration is so good that I’d recommend not.