The Film (3.5/5)
Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings) is a veteran who is down on his luck, with some possible mental issues. We first meet him outside a diner, looking on with hunger. Luck just so happens to shine on him when he finds a wallet full of cash on the sidewalk. After eating a huge breakfast, Chuck goes to the address inside the wallet. It turns out it belongs to an eccentric millionaire named Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran), who has serious bipolar issues. Eddie is impressed by Chuck’s honest behavior and gives him a job as his new chauffeur, which does amuse Eddie’s right hand man Gino (Peter Lorre).
All seems right in the world, expect for Eddie’s depressed wife Lorna (Michele Morgan). Lorna is tired of her life with Eddie and dreams of escaping to Havana. Chuck slowly falls in love with Lorna and decides to tempt fate and run away with her. Once in Havana, things get dicey as Lorna is mysteriously murdered and Chuck is framed for it. Can Chuck escape? Or what awaits him as he experiences the madness of the chase?
THE CHASE is a 1946 film noir based on the novel “The Black Path of Fear” by Cornell Woolrich. Having Woolrich attached to the film, made it a must see for me. I’ve loved most of the films based on his work, with the 1954 Hitchcock classic REAR WINDOW being a favorite. While I haven’t (but plan to) read any of Woolrich’s novels or short stories, I can see why his dark stories have been adapted into many a good noir. Luckily for me the film was quite enjoyable and strange to stand out against all the other b noirs.
THE CHASE is a very dreamlike and odd movie. It moves at a breakneck pace and never gets dull, but boy does it throw some curve balls at you. On the surface everything seems fine, but there’s all these odd choices. One interesting one, is Eddie’s literal backseat driving. He has a master gas petal in the backseat that he can randomly turn on and control the car. Also the setting of Miami lets the movie play with location and switch over to Cuba for some more thrills including a long foot chase. Now while all of this keeps the movie interesting, the movie does have a huge script problem. It never fully explains the jump in time and makes the romance between Chuck and Lorna seem forced and flat. It also doesn’t help matters that both Cummings and Morgan seem to lack chemistry together. The movie also has an out of left field third act that damages the plotting, but I won’t spoil it here.
Cast wise everyone is spot on. Robert Cummings comes off as a likable everyman, and his character’s generic name of Chuck Scott adds in with his averageness. While limited, Cummings never feels unbelievable as a nice man in a bad situation. Peter Lorre is always welcomed and can still play this part in his sleep. Michele Morgan has little to do, but looks the part and does some great acting with her eyes. The standout in the cast is Steve Cochran as Eddie. He looks and dresses like a playboy, but there is something not quite right in his face. At times, looking like a demented Ken doll with a bipolar temper. THE CHASE is filled beginning to end with some stunning black and white cinematography that classes up this noir to near classic status. The crane shots and especially the scenes by the water have a thrilling life to them and make up for some of the odder script issues.
While not a classic, THE CHASE has a lot to offer for Film Noir fans who are willing to explore dome of the lesser titles.
While not a perfect presentation, Kino and UCLA Film and Television Archive have given THE CHASE a wonderful transfer and remastered print. This is also the best the film has ever looked on home video. After years of bad public domain releases, the movie finally has a clean looking print with minor issues.
The main audio track is a 2.0 channel LPCM English track. The movie sounds great with no hiss or pops. The soundtrack is also well balanced and clear. There’s no subtitles included. The transfer is 1080p HD from the 35mm print preserved by the UCLA film and television archive. The film is crystal clear with some minor exceptions. Early on there’s some print damage and motion blur. The other issue is the black levels varies scene to scene. Some scenes are excellent, while some have a white muddy look on actor’s faces. This only temporary blurs the faces, but it is noticeable. Overall the transfer has minor natural film grain and decent black levels.
The main extra is an audio commentary by filmmaker Guy Maddin (THE FORBIDDEN ROOM). The track is pretty laid back, but Maddin seems to space out at points. Maddin is a huge fan of THE CHASE and his joy for the film is welcoming. Next up is two radio adaptations of the Woolrich source novel, “The Black Path of Fear” for the radio show Suspense. There’s the August 31th 1944 episode (mislabeled August 3rd on the menu screen) starring Brian Donlevy, and the March 7th 1946 episode starring Cary Grant. Both are worth a listen if you’re into 1930’s and 40’s radio programs. Of the two, The Donlevy episode is superior. The Grant episode sounds way to muffed and crackly. And rounding out the release are trailers for all Kino releases A BULLET FOR JOEY, HE RAN ALL THE WAY, and WITNESS TO MURDER.
THE CHASE is no film noir masterpiece, but for what it is, it’s a damn fine b noir with some nice surreal flourishes. For noir fans who may already own this movie, do yourself a favor and throw out those public domain discs and check this Blu-ray out. And for new comers, you’re in luck, this is the perfect release for you. Highly Recommended.