The Chase (1946)

The opening shot of The Chase (1946) is straight out of a mad god's dictionary of crazy Americana - a burger being flipped, watched by a hungry ex-military man.

This is Chuck Scott, hapless heel about town and nervous pill-popper, a guy scarred into insecurity and down on his luck as a result of World War 2.

And The Chase is not quite what you suspect. It's firmly film noir because of the psychology and the dream like quality of much of the story. 

Watch out for spoilers from this point on, because the dreamlike results of PTSD, which is what is being suggested in this film, make for a mad and paranoid set of circumstances.

At the centre of this dream too, is a version of the femme fatale, here cast as Michèle Morgan. She is a nervous and paranoid wife, another film noir favourite character type. And although she is not bad, she is still the pit that the hapless hero and weakened male of the lead, is going to fall within.


Grim Dinners ... with Michèle Morgan
The returned soldier is a common character in film noir, for which you must simply see The Crooked Way, starring John Payne. It was a real thing, and not only among servicemen, but not all of America  had a clear direction home after 1945. Film noir reflects this. It's the uncertainty, and the notion of hidden threats and strange paths. It's the moral doubt, here implied from the off, which shows a world in which the good guy has no money, and the criminal is super-wealthy. Morality, in film noir, is suddenly and unkindly questioned.

Surely many ex servicemen drifted into crime, either as perp or victim, and that is what happens here, with Chuck Scott, ending up being both. Surely crime had flourished while Amercia had been away at war too? And the war itself must be likened to a crime, certainly becaiuse of what it has done to guys like Scotty. Certainly nobody was the same and film noir reflects this in American cinema. 

Suicidal dreams? Or thinking of a foreign holiday?

Find out in .... THE CHASE!
 
And did villains, the likes of Eddie Roman in The Chase, dodge service entirely?

Robert Cummings plays a self-confessed 'sucker', the heel or the sucker being a common noir staple. He arrives at the shady Flordia house of gangster Eddie Roman, who is well assisted by a cynical henchman, played by Peter Lorre.

Gangster Eddie Roman, played by Steve Cochrane, has the most fiendish device installed in his car, an accelerator that he can operate from the back seat.  It's among the weirdest devices in film. This you really have to see, as it quite insane.  Don't get one for your kids.  Nonetheless it is the perfect device for your unfriendly neighbourhood psycho-gangster. Eddie has this master accelerator on hand at all times, and it is so unusual as to be dream-like in itself. All the nightmares seemed cooped up in that car at times.

Steve Cochrane in The Chase (1946)

Steve Cochrane, who also appears in White Heat (1949), Highway 301 (1950), does a great job as the psychotic villain, and this was in the days when the psychotic villain was in and of itself a devloping form. He appears with wide and staring eyes and a half smile and yet he likes the down on his luck military guy, and appears as slightly jealous when he hears that Scotty has got a medal. The characters are somewhat grotesque, even the femme fatale in her way, but we are walking on the fringes of sanity and mental health, and don't even know it. That's the war.




And Peter Lorre is always a pleasure. Without even seeing this movie I am sure you can hear him delivering such lines as: "I would say we are in the amusement business."

We also find as a surprise  Michèle Morgan grown up from her appearance in Le Quai des Brumes (1938) 

Michèle Morgan - what the chauffer sees in his rear view ...

Robert Cummings is instantly recognisable as the happy-go-lucky heel turrned hero in Saboteur (1942), just as you may have seen him as the happy-go-lucky heel turrned hero in Dial M for Murder (1954).

What you won't expect from The Chase is the sudden weirdness of the story half way along, when some post-traumatic stress kicks in and Robert Cummings' character collapses and rebuilds in a confusing series of real and not real goings on. This is just as entertaining as the strange fantasy of the earlier parts of the film, where an almost Hitchcockian type of nightmare series of events leads the lead to the murder at the heart of the action. 




Does he or does he not kill the one he loves? Is the love he develops for the gangster's bullied wife a real thing? Is what we see symbolic or actual, or neither? Perhaps the reworked madness of a man emotionally killed by battle?

To keep us guessing, here is a lot of peculiar acting in The Chase.  Often actors often stare into space and we wait, we watch, and wait and watch. Still The Chase is exceptionally dark, and at times this is apt as the action slips in and out of dreams ....

LORNA ROMAN: "You don't get over three years of terror in one night."



No comments:

Post a Comment