Down These Dark Alleys And Dusty Trails…



Kino Lorber releases two title-linked Hollywood films of the latter half of the 1940s on Blu-ray, and in something of the same spirit one couldn’t help but to also pair them in a single review. Disconnected by period, genre, production method, even intended audience, director Arthur Ripley’s edge-of-Poverty Row-produced crime thriller The Chase (1946) and director Raoul Walsh’s big studio-adjacent western drama Pursued (1947) are nevertheless linked by a certain thematic and atmospheric je ne sais quoi later called film noir. Beyond the sinister associations of the titles, and particularly the seeming contradiction in calling the latter a western noir, both The Chase and Pursued coexist in that ultimately indefinable cinematic netherspace where the shadows of postwar America surreptitiously stretched not only down its darkened alleys, but also stealthily stalked the dusty trails of its history.

THE CHASE (1946)


A traumatized Navy vet on the bum (Robert Cummings) returns a wallet and lands a job as chauffeur to vicious Miami Beach gangster Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran), eventually helping Roman’s abused wife Lorna (Michèle Morgan) escape across the coast to Havana, Cuba, where they are pursued by Roman’s sinister henchman, Gino (Peter Lorre). Based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1944 novel The Black Path of Fear, itself extended from his 1942 story entitled “Havana Night”, director Ripley and screenwriter Philip Yordan substantially revised the source material to in effect negate the story at the precise point where its exotically atmospheric locale climaxes in a noir-soaked frenzy of murderous framing, feverish pursuit, and double, eventually triple, homicide. Subverting both the narrative and reality itself, The Chase plays past its dizzying third-act twisting-turn like a nightmare one wakes from in sweaty relief, only to find oneself plunging deeper into a further and potentially more damaging point of darkened distress. The final shot seems to suggest the inescapable reoccurrence of a just experienced tragedy, only this time without the aid of pursuing evil spurring it on. Which somehow makes it all the more frightening.

PURSUED (1947)


Sole surviving scion of a decimated family clan-rivalry of twenty years before, Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum) relates in flashback to his adoptive sister and later bride Thorley “Thor” nee Callum (Teresa Wright) their shared story of his being rescued and raised by formidable ranch woman Medora Callum (Judith Anderson), his lifelong rivalry with his step-brother Adam (John Rodney), and the mysterious malign of Mrs. Callum’s one-armed lawman relation Grant (Dean Jagger); all of whose multiple tragic outcomes may be ultimately unlocked by Jeb’s repressed childhood memory of spurs dangling and glinting across a hardwood floor during a gunfight. Niven Busch’s dark-edged western script is further shaded by esteemed cinematographer James Wong Howe’s moody imagery, which not only deepens and darkens as noir avatar Robert Mitchum’s Jeb negotiates in his deceptively laid-back manner the elusive truth of his history, but also equally and effectively brightens, to the point of hard-lined overexposure, during other, even more disturbing sequences. An almost somnambulant search through the ruins of a homestead burnt to its foundation decades before, and successive funerals conducted under towering cumuli, burning in the noon sky overhead, similarly play like the specter of the past discomfitingly closing its rougher grasp over a diminishing, claustrophobic present. In these latter sequences particularly, starkly unfolding against Raoul Walsh’s suitably straightforward and typically muscular screen-direction, Mitchum’s Jeb’s eyes appear dark, shining pools of brilliant anti-light, all-seeing and all-registering, but somehow tragically failing to understand until the very end. And even then the decisive act is undertaken by another. 

Both of these special edition Blu-rays appear in advantageously sympathetic visual transfers, The Chase from a 2012 UCLA restoration of this previous rarity and Pursued from a 4K scan in 2022 of multiple original film sources, including the camera negative, dupe negative, and a composite printing. Included from KL’s previous 2016 Blu-ray of The Chase are two radio adaptations from the Suspense radio series of the mid-1940s, the first starring Brian Donlevy and the second Cary Grant, no less, giving viewers a keen sense of where, how, and from what the film strongly departs, and a recorded commentary from filmmaker Guy Maddin, undoubtedly providing the best viewing companionship for one of the most delirious films noir Hollywood managed to produce. Conceptually stalking Raoul Walsh’s unusually and darkly themed western Pursued, and particularly its laconically charismatic star Robert Mitchum at the effective outset of his decades-long film career, is eminent film scholar and historian Imogen Sara Smith, whose interpretive and research-based approach strongly compliments and expands upon an early 1990s recorded introduction from filmmaker Martin Scorsese, also included on this Blu-ray. (The latter being this reviewer’s introduction to this film, from a VHS collection which also included Scorsese’s similarly chosen favorites of a self-tortured John Garfield in Force of Evil [1948] and Nicholas Ray’s equally dark yet floridly colorful, operatic western Johnny Guitar [1954].) Pursued or Chased, or Chasing the Pursued, both are worthy additions to the shadowy section of any discerning noirista‘s home video library. 

The images in this review are used only as a reference to the films, and do not reflect the picture quality of Kino Lorber’s Blu-rays. The cover image is credited to DVDBeaver.