‘Never be the innocent bystander; that’s the guy that always gets hurt.’
The American Film Noir tradition brought to screen many of doomed romances and powerful femme fatales on screen but Director Otto Preminger’s this brilliant part noir part passionate drama is something extra to it. The film begins with a domestic emergency that sets three essential elements- plot, theme and character introduction. The emergency may be an accident or a murder plot to a mid age lady who happens to be the stepmother of a young girl. Her novelist father lost his professional touch after remarriage and the daughter is not much inclined towards her new mother. Enters an ambulance driver who’s also wannabe professional racer; his encounter with a young inscrutable dame ignited a passionate affair that leads to crime and court. The man is of strong conviction and one that not easy to dupe by any smart lady. ‘I’ve been slapped by dames before’, he said in his first encounter. What we see next is brilliantly crafted ambivalent relationships, a premeditated car accident, courtroom trial and a passionate affair to remember.
One may find crisp editing, control of direction and story telling in most of Otto Preminger films and this one of that gem that one shouldn’t missed. Just like his brilliant film ‘Anatomy of Murder’, Preminger brought fine detailing in that courtroom scenes with utter professional approach in investigation and cross investigation by lawyers. He brought an automobile expert with the whole inside of wrecked car to display and discuss in court. Overall he successfully nailed both the drama and noir by getting the finest performances from lead chemistry of Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Mitchum is the man to watch as always who knows bloody well how to wear that attitude of his own on screen and Simmons is the dame to watch by all means who seems a femme fatale in the beginning but ended up as passionate lover who’s having her own conviction and conscience struggling desperately to win the man till final frames. We know what would be the end and still we crave and hope that it wouldn’t be!