“We fit together like a gun and ammunition”

Christine & I watched Gun Crazy, among other things, tonight. I’ve been hearing about this one for a good long time and it didn’t disappoint. It reminded me of Borzage’s
Moonrise (one of my absolute favourites): very few films capture the sheer terror of presiding over a less powerful being’s fate this well… In Moonrise, it’s a raccoon in a tree, shaken loose for the dogs; in GC it’s a fuzzy baby chicken killed with a bb gun… and there are echoes of this nightmarish power all through the film. These aren’t your typical “frightened killers” on the run. They’re frightened alright, but mostly they’re frightened of their own superior firepower…

But this isn’t Natural Born Killers either… Nor is it some bland argument in favour of gun control! More than anything, this is a brilliant dramatization of how badly things can deteriorate for two people, once they decide that they can “live for love alone” and opt out of the social contract. These monsters are not “products of their environment”: they choose their fate…

“Didn’t you realize that once we started this, we’d never be able to turn to anyone for help again?” Dall asks Cummins. She knows.

Cummins is amazing in this role. I don’t even think she qualifies as a femme fatale really… That term usually applies to a money-grubbing jerk who tantalizes the male protagonist into compromising his integrity. In some ways, she does have this effect on Dall, but it’s a lot more complicated than that… This isn’t Phyllis Dietrichson & Walter Neff. Barbara Stanwyck is my favourite actress, bar none, but Double Indemnity? That’s gotta be one of the worst things she ever did. It’s not her fault. It’s Billy Wilder’s. He liked his women venal or pixiesh… Either way–they’re just there to affect the men. I hate Billy Wilder. I really do. If you’re looking for a Stanwyck character to compare Cummins to, try her eponymous turn in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on for size. There are a lot of similarities. Both women are extraordinarily competent, and that’s what makes them appealing. They aren’t moral black holes sucking the men to their doom–they’re Nietzschean supernovae of desire. Cummins isn’t trying to fool Dall into getting stuff for her. She wants a partner in crime. Someone to keep her company while she does what she does (& loves) best. Shoot people. Dall is a lot more squeamish than that, but he can’t keep away from her. “I let you do my killing for me,” he says.

It’s true.

They aren’t two people anymore. They’re one. And it turns out that romantic fusion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact it’s crazy.

Good night friends!

One comment

  1. Dave,

    What I love most is the limbo the two lovers are left in at the end. The atmosphere of the fog and marsh. After the lovers are killed, the camera pulls back and we cannot see anything but the two friends and the patch of land the lovers were hiding in – the only place left for them, and even that destroyed.
    Film Noir Reader 3 has a great interview with the director (McGill has it!!). Big Combo is sitting on my tv waiting to be watched. That looks as great as well.

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