Monday, July 01, 2024

TRY AND GET ME! (1950)

Shots of a blind street preacher (which will get a callback at the end of the film) are followed by the credits rolling over a scene of Frank Lovejoy hitching a ride with a trucker. Lovejoy, with a pregnant and son at home, has been traveling around looking for a job and is headed back to the town of Santa Sierra, still jobless. At a bowling alley, Lovejoy chats with a brash young man (Lloyd Bridges) who offers him a job; unfortunately, that job is as a driver to help Bridges pull off small-scale robberies. Meanwhile, gung-ho reporter Richard Carlson, whom we also meet at that bowling alley, is writing exaggerated stories about a crime wave in the town, despite his socialist friend telling him that sensationalism in journalism is a social problem just like crime. Lovejoy and Bridges have a successful run of small robberies, and Lovejoy's wife thinks he's working at a legit job, but eventually Lovejoy decides to leave crime behind. Bridges talks him into one last job—kidnapping the son of a wealthy businessman—but it all goes rather brutally wrong. The son winds up dead and it's only a matter of time before Lovejoy and Bridges are arrested. With Carlson stoking the town's flames with his articles about their "crime wave," eventually a mob seeking their own brand of justice forms at the jailhouse with tragic results.

For most of its running time, this is a fairly average noir melodrama about a good guy whose moral compass quits working, leading him to get in over his head in a bad situation with a villainous psycho. In the last fifteen minutes, it takes a sharp violent turn that is fairly shocking for a 1950 movie. No spoiler here, but Bridges gives a balls-out performance that verges on over-the-top, like he's been waiting for the whole movie for this chance to show off. The furor of the townspeople is also presented well. Lovejoy, an underrated actor, is good, and his fairly placid exterior makes a good balance with Bridges' twitchy antics. He makes a solid, archetypal film noir lead, a good man led astray (though there is no femme fatale) through desperation. The attempt to target yellow journalism is not as strong as it could be, partly because they make the reporter (Richard Carlson) too nice, though perhaps it's appropriate for a film noir that, with a misguided anti-hero in the person of Lovejoy, there is a sort of misguided anti-villain in Carlson. Kathleen Ryan is low-key as the wife, and Katherine Locke is OK as a would-be femme fatale, though too vanilla to really be a bad girl, who sets her sights on Lovejoy. Renzo Cesana is the socialist friend who expresses the film's (somewhat grandiose) message: understanding, not hate, will lead us to the moral center of the universe. The story is based loosely on a real event. A rare film marketed as noir that actually is. Its original title, THE SOUND OF FURY is a better match than the current title. Pictured are Bridges and Lovejoy. [Criterion Channel]

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