Noir City goes west in this hardboiled cowboy double feature staring (belated) birthday boy and one of Noir City’s favorite Leos, Robert Mitchum. First up BLOOD ON THE MOON.
Laconic lone-wolf cowboy Robert Mitchum is reunited with old pal Robert Preston, who needs an experienced and morally-flexible hand in an ongoing cattle battle. Only his pal isn’t on the level and of course there’s a pistol-packing blonde in the mix.
Pay no mind to the brightly colored poster above, this flick is deliciously dark. I always say that true noir isn’t about the style of the hat, it’s about what goes on underneath, but in this case it isn’t just the double crossing, corruption, betrayal and two-fisted violence. This one is as stylistically dark on the outside as it is inside.
Directed and shot by CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE tag-team Robert Wise and Nicholas Musuraca, the action takes place more often in the rain and shadows than it does on the sun-baked desert range. There’s a beautiful, brutal and unforgettable brawl between Mitchum and Preston that could have taken place in any dive bar in Noir City.
I also loved the fact that Mitchum and Barbara Bel Geddes kick off their sexually-charged romance with a gun fight. She even shoots his hat off! A woman’s bullet indeed.
Lastly, can we talk briefly about the fashion in this flick? Pretty boy Preston cuts quite the dapper silhouette amidst those dusty cowpokes, but get a load of Charles McGraw’s massive fur coat!
How many muppets had to die for him to wear that? Also I’m pretty sure it weighs more than he does. Still, I’m always jazzed to see the granite-faced McGraw, even in a smaller role.
Next up, PURSUED.
A wounded vet comes home from the war to find that he just can’t shake the demons of his dark past. Sound familiar?
This is a classic noir trope that no doubt resonated strongly with returning soldiers fresh off the battlefields of WWII. You could very easily imagine this story set (with a few modifications) in 1947, the year this movie was made. Or the seventies or nineties or even today.
The most interesting thing about this one is the way it realistically and unflinchingly depicts what we now call PTSD, caused by childhood trauma. Mitchum’s character witnesses the slaughter of his family as a boy, and though he is able to survive by hiding and is ultimately saved and raised by a neighbor woman, he suffers from confusing and debilitating flashbacks of that horrific night. That angle really gives some teeth to what would otherwise be a kind of silly and convoluted plot involving land disputes, a pseudo-incest romance with his adopted sister (inexplicably named Thor) and a dark family secret.
Also, why didn’t any of you perverts tell me that Mitchum is tied up in this flick? You’re all fired.
One more thing. To the butt-hurt lady-haters who got all bent out of shape because Marvel wanted to introduce a female Thor, joke’s on you because there have apparently been female Thors for decades!
Tonight we’re leaving the old US of A for some international Dope Noir with TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, then we’ll sail back again for WHIPLASH. Stay tuned and don’t forget to watch along at home!