Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Gun Crazy

(Deadly is the Female, 1950)

Every once in a while a story will transcend a low budget and emerge as a “noir” classic. Movies like White Heat, for instance. This is another example. The story is very simple. A young man breaks a store window because he wants the pistol on display there. He is literally gun crazy, he just has to have firearms. And it might have ended there, with him target shooting and harming no one, except that he hooks up with an Annie Oakley sharpshooter from the circus who lives guns as much as he does, and doesn’t have his qualms about killing people.

They embark on a life of crime, and they’re not very smart, and not very good at it. Several people are killed along the way, and they end up miserable and trapped. It’s not a glamorous life.

One thing that really sets it apart is the innovative camera work. In 1950 you just didn’t see shots filmed from inside a car. Those studio shots look incredibly lame these days, with people sitting motionless as the projected backgrounds jolt around. But people accepted it, because they’d never seen anything better. But here, director Joseph H. Lewis puts his camera in the back seat and the actors are really driving. There is one long take, maybe five or six minutes, as they prepare to hold up a bank, and it’s really great, especially when you consider the physical problems that had to be mastered to do it, complete with panning motions. Great to watch.