Monday, May 23, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Woman on the Run (1950) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

There are two very special Blu-ray/DVD releases from Flicker Alley this month, in conjunction with the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA.

The first, TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1950), was reviewed here earlier this month.

The second film from Flicker Alley, WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), was featured on opening night of the 2015 Noir City Film Festival. My review of that 35mm screening of the restored film may be found here.

Like TOO LATE FOR TEARS, WOMAN ON THE RUN is a combination Blu-ray/DVD set, presented with a full complement of extras, including a short "making of" documentary, a featurette on the film's restoration, another featurette on the film's locations, and a very informative commentary track by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller. For good measure a short on the San Francisco version of the Noir City festival is included.

The set's glossy 24-page booklet includes an essay by Muller.

WOMAN ON THE RUN was coproduced by star Ann Sheridan and directed by Norman Foster; Muller suspects that Sheridan chose Foster for the job. They had likely met in Mexico in the '40s, as he was working there and she lived there part of the year.

Both do a fine job handling this somewhat unusual noir in which a floundering marriage is put back together while the couple are apart during a manhunt for a murder witness.

Sheridan plays Eleanor Johnson, whose husband Frank (Ross Elliott) had the misfortune to see a murder go down while out walking their dog. The victim was a witness in a major criminal case, which now makes Frank a key witness.

Frank fears meeting a similar fate as the murder victim and hits the road. A pair of police detectives (Robert Keith and Frank Jenks) and a reporter (Dennis O'Keefe) who wants an exclusive stick to Eleanor like glue, hoping she'll lead them to Frank.

Eleanor, meanwhile, learns things about Frank she'd never known as she tries to track him down, hoping to save not only Frank but perhaps their marriage.

There's an excellent screenplay with sharp dialogue for Sheridan, who's great sparring with both Keith and O'Keefe. Director Foster cowrote the screenplay with Alan Campbell, whose wife was Dorothy Parker.

In his commentary Eddie Muller notes that there was never a finished continuity script for WOMAN ON THE RUN, and he suspects that both Keith, who was also a playwright, and O'Keefe, who did a fair amount of credited and uncredited screenplay work, were also responsible for some of the dialogue. I was interested to learn from the commentary that O'Keefe is also believed to have done uncredited writing work on the noir classic T-MEN.

Keith has an especially nice part as the detective who constantly annoys Sheridan's Eleanor, but who has a soft spot for dogs and manages to care for Eleanor and Frank's dog, Rembrandt, while also handling his investigation.

With a running time of 77 minutes, the plot is lightning-fast. The film utilizes a number of interesting San Francisco locations, as well as Bunker Hill in Los Angeles and Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, both standing in for Northern California. The exciting climax includes a couple of wild roller coaster rides at the amusement park!

One of the interesting aspects of Muller's commentary is explaining how cinematographer Hal Mohr accomplished some of the process shots; one such shot, with Sheridan and O'Keefe approaching and then walking into a store, is particularly impressive.

I've listened to many commentary tracks over the years and class this one by Muller as top of the line, enriching and educational.

WOMAN ON THE RUN is an outstanding release which is a "must" for any film noir fan. Let's hope that we'll be able to enjoy similar releases from Flicker Alley and the Film Noir Foundation in the years to come.

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

TOO LATE FOR TEARS may be purchased at the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to get my blu Ray copy . It's not out in the UK till June.
I always thought Ross Elliott wasn't a strong enough actor to play Ann's husband , though of course his part, though crucial, isn't very big.

11:43 PM  

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