The Chase (1946)
Directed by Arthur Ripley
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Based on the novel The Black Path of Fear by Cornell Woolrich
Cinematography by Frank F. Planer
Edited by Edward Mann
Distributed by United Artists
(1:26) Rewatch - Kino Lorber Classics Blu-ray
Hungry and broke, veteran Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings) looks through the window of a Miami coffee shop, watching a cook preparing breakfast for his customers, but Chuck knows all he can do is look. But when he looks a little closer, he finds a fully-loaded wallet at his feet.
After spending a meager amount of his findings on breakfast, Chuck decides to return the wallet to its owner, who left his contact info inside the wallet. Upon his arrival at the mansion of Eddy Roman (Steve Cochran), a strange man named Gino (Peter Lorre) leads Chuck to a room where Roman is having his hair cut by a woman barber. In a matter of seconds we know everything we need to know about Steve Roman as he says, “How do you feel, being a barber, cutting men’s hair? Feels good, huh?” It probably didn’t feel good when he smacked her across the face seconds later.
Roman might be a slimy racketeer, but he’s impressed with Chuck’s honesty in returning the wallet and hires him as his personal driver. After one of the wildest car rides in film noir, Chuck realizes he’s caught up in something very strange, which gets even stranger when Roman tells him to chauffeur his wife Lorna (Michèle Morgan) around.
Then things go completely off the rails and the audience has to try to come to grips with what’s real and what’s not. Does Chuck really take Lorna to Havana and fall in love with her? Is this a flash forward? A dream? Reality? We’re just getting started. If he’s seen The Chase (and I’m sure he has), David Lynch must’ve loved it. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
To tell you more of the film would rob you of the enjoyment of a really weird experience, especially for 1946. (If you have seen it, you can find many great reviews and opinions on the film online.) The Chase benefits from being an independent production rather than a release from one of the big studios. No major studio would have allowed such an unconventional picture to be released without making the script more straightforward and conventional, but its odd structure makes it so much more compelling.
If it looks as if Peter Lorre was bored with the whole picture, he probably was. He played Roman’s henchman because producer Seymour Nebenzal had also produced Lorre’s breakout role in M (1931). (Actually Lorre’s performance here is spot on. Whether he was acting or simply going through the motions, it works.)
There’s so much to say about The Chase, but I’m going to leave it right here for you to explore. You can find the film (in the public domain) just about anywhere, but the best quality presentation is going to be with the Kino Lorber Classics Blu-ray from 2016.
Next time: Zachary Scott travels to the UK for some shenanigans.
Photos: DVD Beaver