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The Hunted

Posted by martinteller on September 16, 2012

The NW Film Center is doing a film noir series this month.  When I saw that they were showing a movie I hadn’t seen, and one I wanted to see, and Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller was going to be there… well, I had to go.  I’ve mentioned my general aversion to theaters before.  And yes, the seat became very uncomfortable after about half an hour.  And yes, a woman right in front of me noisily unwrapped a candy bar the second the movie started, despite a strict “no food” policy at the NWFC.  Nonetheless, I had a fantastic time.  Eddie started the show with a little background, especially on Belita, and told us that we were having a rare experience.  No one knows who owns the rights to this movie, so it won’t be coming out on DVD any time soon.  After the film he had some closing comments and took questions for a good 40-45 minutes.  I got to ask a couple myself — “What was the movie that gave you the noir bug?” (Thieves’ Highway) and “Do you know of any possible DVD plans for Storm Fear or Ride the Pink Horse?” (sadly no, but he mentioned that TCM has some goodies in the pipeline, although he wasn’t at liberty to name them).  He was a very entertaining speaker.

And heck, I have to admit sometimes there is something special about the theater experience.  It was my first time seeing a noir on the big screen, and it was a joy, especially with what must have been about 200 other folks in attendance.  If parking wasn’t such a hassle downtown, I might go to more of these (even though I’ve seen all the other selections).  The Hunted doesn’t sport the most amazing cinematography in the genre, but there some pretty sweet shots, like Belita staring out the window as the rain is reflected on her face… or Preston Foster lurking outside her apartment building, in the iconic hat and trenchcoat.

As for the story, it involves Johnny Saxon (Foster), a cop and Laura Mead (Belita), newly out on parole after doing a stint for robbery.  Saxon is nervous about the release… you see, he’s the one who put Laura away, and — swearing her innocence — she vowed she’d murder him and her attorney (Pierre Watkin).  Complicating matters is the fact that Laura used to be his gal, before he sent her to prison.  But she’s apparently over her anger.  The two reconcile, and Saxon gets her a job ice skating (it’s Belita, what else is she gonna do?).  Soon, however, old suspicions are reawakened….

It’s not a great noir, but it does some deft juggling of audience expectations.  In noir, when the pretty girl swears her innocence, you can’t be sure if she’s full of shit or not.  Bernhard toys with that, and right up to the end you’re not sure if Laura is a deceitful femme fatale or the tragic victim of a sinister frame-up.  Belita isn’t the best actress, but (as Muller pointed out) she does have a compelling onscreen presence.  Foster doesn’t have a lot of hard-boiled edge to him, but he has enough to get by, and as much as the role requires.  Charles McGraw has a fun little appearance (a surprise, since he’s not listed in the credits).  The story moves swiftly, despite a very lengthy scene when Saxon and Laura reunite and deliver a truckload of exposition.  And the atmosphere is noir enough to satisfy.  Someone in the audience commented that the music was overwrought, which is rather common in noir, but I actually really liked the score.  The movie wouldn’t make anyone’s list of must-see noirs, and it has the usual tacked-on insincere ending, but it’s pretty solid.  Rating: Good (74)


2 Responses to “The Hunted”

  1. H. said

    Muller blows…

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