Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Clay Pigeon (1949)

*** out of 5

This is an early Richard Fleischer film, from a story by Carl Foreman (probably most well known today for High Noon), and it has everything you could ask for in a film noir- A coma, amnesia, WWII veterans, conspiratorial underworld organizations, and a police manhunt for the wrong man. Plus you get bizarre bonuses like the unlikely choice of a gang leader who is also a former Japanese prison guard (Richard Loo).

Still, the racial portrait painted in this film is actually a fairly nuanced one. Balancing the brutal portrayal of the Japanese prison guard, nicknamed "The Weasel," we have a brief nod to the valor of Japanese Americans who fought and died in the war. (though no mention of internment, if that's what you're looking for).

Bill Williams stars as the veteran in question, freshly awakened from a coma, with partial amnesia, and a looming courtmarshal for crimes he doesn't remember.  Barbara Hale is the wife of his fellow prison-camp inmate and pal who he is accused of betraying.
Richard Quine is the third piece in two triangles- He is the third musketeer of the prisoners, and the third major player in the film's plot.  Is he just a friend eager to help Williams acquit himself and find the real villains? Or does is he carefully maneuvering to hide ulterior motives?

Not everything makes sense here, but things move along pretty briskly, and there are a number of interesting twists in the plot that help to maintain the audience's sense of unease and concern for the hero and his friends.  Fleischer's best work is ahead of him, but he is well in command of his medium already here.

No comments:

Post a Comment