Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Born to Kill


Born to Kill (1947) Yet another noir film, and a good one, for a while. Directed by Robert Wise when he was still laboring in the B-movie factory, before he became a big name, from a novel by James Gunn (not the SF writer). It stars Claire Trevor and Audrey Long as half-sisters, one rich, one not rich. Walter Slezak is a sleazy private eye. Good old Elisha Cook, Jr., a reliable character actor who usually played nervous, weak bad guys, and forever famous as the second-rate gunsel Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon, plays a nervous, weak bad guy. But mostly it stars Lawrence Tierney as a psychopathic killer. He is one mean motor scooter. In Reno, he sets his eye on a girl who is with her fiancée. He decides he will have her. So he follows the man, tells him to take a hike, and when the guy won’t he kills him. The girl shows up, so he kills her, too. Later, he explains to his unlikely sidekick, Elisha, that “No one ever cuts in on me. Ever!”

Meantime, he has set his sights on Trevor, who was in Reno for a six-week divorce. Hard to remember in this day and age, but that used to be the thing to do. Anywhere else it could take years, and be very complicated. He joins her on the train to Frisco, and ends up meeting and marrying the rich half-sister because she is rich. But Claire is one of these inexplicable women who is drawn to psychopaths like a shit-fly to shit.

Everybody here except the private eye and the friend of the murdered woman in Reno who hires him, is incredibly stupid. It only begins with the psycho, who has absolutely no impulse control, who keeps trying to kill Claire even as the cops are breaking down the door outside. Claire gives him a run for his money in the stupid department, being totally under the control of her glands and her fatal attraction to this loser. I finally lost patience with it, as it was impossible to imagine that any of these people had managed to survive to adulthood, but by then I was far enough along I needed to finish seeing it. As for you, don’t waste your time.