As gas station owner Jeff Bailey prepares to marry his innocent small-town girlfriend, his past in New York City catches up to him. Working there as a private detective, he was hired by gangster Whit Sterling to bring back Kathie, Sterling’s girlfriend, who had absconded to Mexico. Instead, he fell under her spell. He hasn’t seen Kathie since she murdered someone, in part to protect Bailey. In the present, he meets Sterling again and she’s there, having gotten back together with the gangster, who has a new job for Bailey. But Kathie is at the centre of a complicated murder conspiracy and draws her ex-lover deep into her web, “You’re no good for anyone but me. You’re no good and neither am I. That’s why we deserve each other”. Out of the Past is masterly rhetoric in “the language of shadows” (Luciano Berriatúa on F. W. Murnau’s early films). On the film’s consummate chiaroscuro canvas, they are the key to the dark side of the protagonists. Surrounded by angled lines of shadow, they move toward an inescapable undoing. There is no escape either for the femme fatale or for Robert Mitchum, as her fatalistic victim. Out of the Past is a dark and gleaming standout of American film noir.
by Jacques Tourneur
with Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming