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Warner Home Video presents
Gun Crazy (1949)

"It's something else about guns that gets him. Not killing."
- Ruby (Anabel Shaw)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: July 05, 2004

Stars: Peggy Cummins, John Dall
Other Stars: Harry Lewis, Nedrick Young, Russ Tamblyn, Berry Kroeger, Morris Carnovsky, Anabel Shaw
Director: Joseph H. Lewis

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:27m:02s
Release Date: July 06, 2004
UPC: 085393197124
Genre: film noir


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B- B-

DVD Review

Bart Tare (John Dall) is a guy with a keen fascination with guns (one character refers to it as a "dangerous mania"), and in the opening sequences we learn how this addiction to weaponry landed him a stint in reform school as a teen, and as the main part of the story kicks in he returns to his hometown of Cashville as a seemingly well-adjusted adult, if not just slightly adrift. A chance and progressively dangerous encounter with sexy carnival sharpshooter Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) rekindles not only his lust for shooting, but a couple of other more basic, primal needs, as well. Namely, sex and money.

Gun Crazy (aka Deadly Is the Female) is a 1949 film noir precursor to more mainstream fare like Bonnie & Clyde and Natural Born Killers, from director Joseph H. Lewis, and its story of star-crossed gunslinging lovers hitting the road to rob and steal is made all the more palatable by Peggy Cummins. She is deadly bad girl cool here, sporting a hip beret and oozing the kind of hypnotic wrong-side-of-the-tracks sex appeal that turns poor trying-to-be-good John Dall into her partner in crime. A streetwise carnival clown even tries to warn off the ill-fated Bart, referring to Cummins' Laurie as someone who "ain't the type that makes a happy home." Cummins makes Laurie the definite draw here, in direct contrast to the comparatively wishy-washy Bart, and Lewis uses his star's femme fatale charms boldly and without restraint. There is no mistaking she's bad, and her loyalty to Bart only goes as far as the next wad of cash they can steal.

Lewis made a name for himself early in his directing career by adding oddly framed shots in Universal's B westerns—filming through wagon wheels and the like—and in Gun Crazy, he adds a couple of unique single-camera continuous shots from the back seat of a moving car. One of the better examples of this occurs during one of Laurie and Bart's heists; Lewis gives viewers an over-the-shoulder perspective as they arrive in town, making assorted turns until eventually arriving at their destination. The car door swings open, Bart and Laurie exit, and she then carries on a conversation with a policeman while Lewis films through the open car window; the scene ends with Laurie and Bart jumping back in the car to make a hasty exit out of town. It is one of the creative Lewis touches that gives Gun Crazy a distinctly stylized feel, and bypassing the usual artificial-looking process shots most filmmakers at the time had to use was really something of an innovation.

This must have been a rather daring picture for 1949, with its violent female lead who really wears the pants in the relationship, and the vaguely sexual innuendos that float back and forth constantly. As a noir title, Lewis works all the off-kilter elements together into a neat package, until the inevitable moment of truth comes in a foggy swamp. The story takes a weirdly illogical detour in the third act when Laurie and Bart land convenient jobs at an Armour meat packing plant—despite being wanted felons whose names appear in a number of newspaper headlines—and this lazy plot point is glossed over with hardly a mention. While it serves as a catalyst or by-product fodder for the big climax, it is an obtrusively sloppy bit of writing in an otherwise classy noir film filled with colorful, fast-talking characters and snappy dialogue. Cummins, however, is really so fully loaded with dangerous, lusty appeal in the role of Laurie that I think Lewis may have just figured no one would care.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: I'm not sure where the print for Gun Crazy has been lying for the past few decades, but Warner Bros. either lucked out or have done a mighty fine job cleaning up the transfer. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect, it still has its share of expected minor age related blemishes and specks, but overall the clarity of the print detail is noticeably revealing. Take a look at the opening sequence where young Bart breaks a store window and steals a gun, at night during a heavy rain; the scene stills looks incredible, wonderfully showcasing Lewis' deliberate use of shadow and minimal light.

Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in Dolby Digital mono—no surprise there—and while the track lacks any glaring imperfections, it is not without its small faults. Dialogue remains clear throughout, but overall there is a harshness to some sequences, and things like gunshots and squealing tires sometimes come across more grating than menacing. I chalk up most of these as age related issues, and is probably unfair to expect a film from 1949 to sound much different, or better for that matter.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Glenn Erickson
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is only one extra on Warner's Gun Crazy, and it is a full-length commentary from Glenn Erickson, who is described as an "author/film-noir specialist." In listening to Erickson, who writes regularly for another DVD review site, it is obvious that he's a knowledgeable guy when it comes to films like this, and his fact-packed commentary is actually similar in tone to those of Tom Weaver on the Universal Classic Monster releases. His presentation is a bit on the dry side, almost lecture-like, but he does have a great degree of engaging content and background on the production and cast of Gun Crazy.

The disc is cut into 25 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Gun Crazy is a great bit of B-movie noir, with a gun-toting bad girl lead who loves shooting almost as much as she loves money.

Recommended.

 


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