Starring: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake
Director: Edgar G Ulmer
Al Roberts (Neal) is down on his luck and decides to hitch hike to LA to try to get his girl back. But on the way, he’s picked up by a man who just happens to take too many pills and die. Al, afraid that he’ll be charged with murder, decides to simply take on the man’s identity and steal his clothes and car. But he realises he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he picks up a girl on the road who tells him she knows he’s not the man he’s pretending to be.
“Fate or some mysterious force can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.” says this film. It was made incredibly cheaply by a “poverty row” studio, and yet the fairly unknown actors and the cheapness of the locations and sets just adds to the feeling of unreality, the sense that we’re just toys to some unfeeling god up there.
It’s a film where a down on his luck man just can’t catch a break, finding himself drawn deeper and deeper into a strange web. He hasn’t really done anything wrong, but events slide away from him and twist in their own strange ways. Who knew the man who gave him a lift was a crook? Who knew that he would die? Who knew that the girl he picked up would know the dead man or have a whole sordid plan for him that he couldn’t escape from?
I love the film noir feel of this film. You just know that Ann Savage’s Vera is going to be the end of Al, but you’re not sure how. She’s kind of wonderful as a desperate dame on a downward spiral, a woman who has our hero in her clutches and will drag him down to an early grave with her. It’s a cynical film, showing us a world where the little guy is helpless, where events conspire to bring us down, and where women are either unattainable or completely dangerous and not a little bit crazy. There are more slick film noir’s than this one, one’s with bigger budgets or bigger names, but there’s something about the cheapness of this film that gives it a great deal of charm. Also, the lead, Tom Neal, actually spent some time in prison on a murder charge….
See It If: you feel like you’ve seen every film noir there is, this one is a gem you might not have heard of and is a good ride… as long as you’re not Al Roberts!