Friday, 10 June 2016

Woman on the Run (1950)

“Surprisingly Good Film Noir"

It is as well. All I knew about WOMAN ON THE RUN before I popped the disc into the player was that the only existing US print had been burned in a fire in 2008, and that the version I was about to see was the result of painstaking restoration work by the Film Noir Foundation (isn’t it nice to know there are organisations with names like that?). I had no idea, however, if it was going to turn out to be any good.

But it is. Surprisingly so. Running at a brisk 77 minutes and shot on location in San Francisco by a director (Norman Foster) whose main claims to fame are movies in the CHARLIE CHAN and MR MOTO series of 1930s programmers, and a fair bit of US TV, WOMAN ON THE RUN boasts a script brimming with snappy dialogue, some impressively noir camera set-ups, and a pleasingly grim, pre-CARNIVAL OF SOULS fairground setting for its climax. 

Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) is out walking his dog one night when he witnesses a gangland murder. Able to identify the killer, he promptly goes into hiding. much to the chagrin of the police force’s Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith). Ferris contacts Johnson’s wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), convinced that Johnson will make plans to meet up with her.

It turns out that Frank and Eleanor may not have had the perfect marriage as, with tabloid reporter Dan Legget (Dennis O’Keefe) in tow, Eleanor embarks on a journey of Frank’s old haunts to try and find out where he might have gone. Constantly watched by the police, and with Legget not necessarily being all he claims, it’s up to Eleanor to not just find her husband, but save him from the gangland villain he could testify against in court.

There are plenty of reasons to watch WOMAN ON THE RUN, not least of which is the climax, which manages a terrific bit of Hitchcockian suspense on a roller coaster, and an ending that threatens to become depressingly downbeat. Performances are all extremely watchable and constantly interesting, with Sheridan especially coping with some wisecracking dialogue well, and O’Keefe contributing considerably to the sinister climax.

Arrow’s Blu-ray and DVD dual format set contains a full-length feature commentary from ‘noirchaeologist’ (great word) Eddie Muller, as well as short films on the restoration job, the making of the film, and the locations used, as well as a bit about San Francisco’s annual Noir City Film Festival. Excellent stuff. This version of WOMAN ON THE RUN is going to be a must-see for noir fanatics but even if you’re not that familiar with the genre this is actually a pretty good place to start. 

WOMAN ON THE RUN is out in a dual format DVD/Blu-ray edition from Arrow on Monday 13th June 2016

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