Year: 1950

Director: Joseph H. Lewis

Starring: Peggy Cummins and John Dall

“Everything’s going so fast. It’s all in such high gear.”

Perhaps this statement by Bart Tare in Gun Crazy is the best description for the feel of this film. Bart Tare is the main character in this lightning fast tale of self destruction. Played by John Dall, Bart Tare is a young man recently back from serving in the military who finds himself involved with a cute-as-a-button young sharpshooter who leads him down a dark path.

This movie which apparently was once called Deadly is the Female (perhaps a better title for the film) features one of the most memorable femme fatales in film history. This woman is psychotic and blood-thirsty yet her greedy and homicidal tendencies are packaged in such an innocent exterior that you can’t help but assume that in Bart Tare’s shoes you would fall for her too. Part of what makes her fascinating is the fact that unlike some femme fatales who seem calculating in their destruction of the leading man, she seems more motivated by greed, a lust for excitement and the pleasure seeking nature of youth. Her name is Annie Laurie Star and she is played exceptionally well by Peggy Cummins. I was especially impressed by her childish mood swings and the physical manifestations of her deadly angst. She has a set of mannerisms that I think demonstrate great acting skill on the part of Peggy Cummins.

Besides her performance and the overall plot one of the aspects of this film that really stood out to me was the cinematography. I believe this movie would be a great source for countless lectures on the technical and artistic aspects of film-making such as camera placement, framing, lighting, and editing. The use of camera placement and framing to convey thematic elements of the story alone is masterful and awe-inspiring. The best example of this being the scene where Annie Laurie Star and Bart Tare first meet at one of her sharpshooting demonstrations. As she enters the stage she is firing her guns and when she spots Bart Tare in the audience she points her gun right at his face and pulls the trigger. Sure, she apparently is only shooting blanks, but the symbolism of that shot in unmistakable as we continue through the movie only to see his naive obsession with her result in dangerous situation after dangerous situation. This is one of the most visually interesting films I have seen in a long time and a significant highlight to this movie for me was the visual style of the film.

This movie is flawed, but for the most part it is very well done. My only real complaints were some sub-par acting at times and some borderline melodramatic moments. A few plot points in the film seem a little contrived as well, but for the most part it is a simple movie depicting the downfall of yet another fool who allows himself to be lead down a very destructive path by a beautiful, yet very dangerous woman.

By Greg Dickson