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A Movie A Day: Quint goes GUN CRAZY (1950)
We go together... like guns and ammunition go together!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. Thanks for joining in. We’re covering our first noir today, 1950’s GUN CRAZY (later released under the awesome title DEADLY IS THE FEMALE). When this flick started I didn’t think it belonged in the noir genre. Other than a dark and stormy night opening the flick, it’s a relatively bright flick and at first it seems devoid of the main characteristics of noir. The flick opens with a kid standing out in the rain, looking through a hardware store window at a gun on display. He disappears from the window and comes back, rock in hand. He shatters the glass, reaches in and grabs the gun as well as some ammo. At this point I thought I knew where the movie was going… okay, kid needs a gun… he either needs protection or is going to kill himself a fool. Very noiry. But as soon as he has the gun he slips on the wet road and the gun goes flying, right to the feet of a cop.

The kid goes on trial for burglary and we get to know his character through testimony from his friends and older sister. He’s a good kid who has always been good at shooting. But he’s not a killer. We see a flashback showing him prancing around with a BB gun, shooting at random things. The sister tells us how excited he was to get it and then we see him take aim at a little baby chick, fire and then realize the power he wields as he sees the dead baby bird lying on the ground. Ever since then he refuses to kill anything. He won’t hunt, but he will sport shoot. He merely stole the gun because he always needs to have a pistol on him and he got his confiscated at school (think of this movie coming out today… the kid wouldn’t just get his gun confiscated in an “Ohhh, maaaann…” way, would he?) while showing it off to the class. He’s good friends with the kid of the sheriff, but even that doesn’t save him from being sent to a boarding school for his crime. This whole section is brightly lit and here’s where I thought it wasn’t going to be very noiry. This kid gets back an adult… his friends are now in respectable jobs (one inheriting the sheriff’s badge from his father, the other an editor of the town newspaper) and he’s trying to find his place in life. Looking for a little fun, they all go the carnival and see a sharpshooting show, introducing them and us the absolutely devastating beauty of Peggy Cummins.

Watching Cummins target shoot and issuing a $500 challenge to anyone who can outshoot her was my favorite part of the movie. Our lead is hooked in and the shooting match is fucking intense. It really is one of the best scenes of its type I’ve seen. From there, the two get together and it’s pretty clear she’s a horrible influence on him. Soon they are like a Bonnie and Clyde team, staging smart and small robberies, but her greed grows as their take does and she manipulates John Dall’s love for her for riskier jobs. This begins a devastating and depressing downward circle with the characters almost running in a quickly shrinking circle as their fate closes in on them. Besides the great lead performances, I was really taken by the camerawork in the film. There’s a fantastic single shot from the back seat of Dall’s car as they drive up to a bank, he gets out and runs into the bank, she sees a cop round the corner and exits the car, distracting him long enough to get him at gunpoint when Dall runs out, the bank’s alarms screaming. They get back in the car, speed off and travel a good distance, constantly looking back over their shoulders (at the camera) looking for signs of pursuit. It’s probably a 5 minute continuous shot and it’s just perfect. The ending is abrupt, like many movies of this era, but it’s a fitting ending. Director Joseph H. Lewis shows a mastery of storytelling in this film, an under-known classic. If you’re like me, you didn’t even know this movie existed… I first heard of it when I saw it in the Noir Box set. I guess because it doesn’t have any of the traditional noir stars, it gets overlooked. The connection of this film to PAPILLON is a fascinating one. Dalton Trumbo was a credited writer on PAPILLON, but an uncredited writer on GUN CRAZY. Millard Kaufman, in fact, acted as a front for Trumbo who was part of the “Hollywood 10” who appeared before the HCUA during the post WW2 Red scare. They refused to answer McCarthy’s questions and were put in contempt of court… Trumbo himself spent nearly a year in prison… and he was one of the highest paid and most respected screenwriters of his day. So, Kaufman acting as a front for Trumbo meant that Trumbo wrote GUN CRAZY, but was blacklisted from the business, so Kaufman took the credit and fronted the money for the job to Trumbo. Trumbo remained blacklisted for nearly 10 years until Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger made it quite well known he was writing SPARTACUS and EXODUS, respectively. Told ya’, real interesting stuff. In an interesting turn, we follow the front to our next film in the queue. Here’s the schedule for the week: Friday, June 6th: NEVER SO FEW (1959) Saturday, June 7th: A HOLE IN THE HEAD (1959) Sunday, June 8th: SOME CAME RUNNING (1958) Monday, June 9th: RIO BRAVO (1959) Tuesday, June 10th: POINT BLANK (1967) Wednesday, June 11th: POCKET MONEY (1972) Thursday, June 12th: COOL HAND LUKE (1967) Big bombshell there for the 12th, eh? I know I deserve the slings, but in my defense COOL HAND LUKE was one of those films I’ve been waiting to watch on the big screen… but there’s only so long you can wait before you have to give in and just watch the damned thing. I really hope a lot of you were able to follow along with this article, having rented or bought Gun Crazy. It’s the perfect title, an overlooked gem of a movie… precisely what I hope to find as I dive through these movies.

What did you guys think of it? Let the conversation continue below! Next up is NEVER SO FEW, reuniting us with Steve McQueen and introducing us to the first of many Frank Sinatra movies in the months to come. -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon

Readers Talkback
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  • June 5, 2008, 12:26 p.m. CST

    I'd say "FIRST" but noone would care in this thread...

    by JohnnyThanatos

  • June 5, 2008, 12:27 p.m. CST

    This movie...

    by TheMcflyFarm

    Aint half bad, but I can never picture John Dall as a ladies man if ya know what I'm sayin.

  • June 5, 2008, 12:41 p.m. CST

    Such a good movie.

    by Stuntcock Mike

    She's a hot broad.

  • June 5, 2008, 12:52 p.m. CST

    GUN CRAZY kicks ass.

    by Frietag

    According to IMDB Trivia (and I've heard this elsewhere), that five-minute bank-heist thingy was even more amazing than it looks. Quoting: "The bank heist sequence was done entirely in one take, with no one outside the principal actors and people inside the bank aware that a movie was being filmed. When John Dall as Bart Tare says, 'I hope we find a parking space,' he really meant [sic] it, as there was no guarantee that there would be one. In addition, at the end of the sequence someone in the background screams that there's been a bank robbery - this was actually a bystander who saw the filming and assumed the worst." AWESOME

  • June 5, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Yes Quint

    by loogenhausen

    That continuous shot was great and had me loving the film before it was even over. I felt that the two leads had chemistry together in a big way. Even though their characters weren't exactly the most relatable types, you could really sense their crazy, desperate love for each other that came from guns of all things. She was a bad influence on him but he was a good influence on her; she just couldn't find a way to channel that good influence and make a decent life for themselves. Her addictive and out-of-control personality and his lack of one ultimately leads to their downfall. Great flick and keep 'em coming Quint.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST

    I love that carnival scene

    by ballyhoo

    Man, when he gets up and starts looking at her, while holding a gun, he's fucking dripping with desire.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:09 p.m. CST


    by Mattyboy122

    Is an amazing movie. Probably my favorite flick from Warner's Film Noir Vol. 1 box set.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:10 p.m. CST

    I'm exhausted already

    by aint_it_cruel?

    How about doing this M-W-F? Every other day? Weekends? Moderation is the key. Now, baby we can do it Take the time Do it right We can do it, baby Do it tonight

  • June 5, 2008, 1:41 p.m. CST


    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    You've never seen COOL HAND LUCK???!!!<P>Oh, you will definitely be receiving many slings and arrows from me, my friend. No excuses!!!

  • June 5, 2008, 1:42 p.m. CST

    That's "LUKE" -- not "LUCK".

    by Mr. Nice Gaius


  • June 5, 2008, 1:44 p.m. CST

    How on God's green earth have you never seen Cool Hand Luke

    by HitchCock'n'Balz

    It boggles the mind

  • June 5, 2008, 1:45 p.m. CST

    I Love This Movie

    by FlyingGuillotine

    Bleak and crazy and amazing.

  • June 5, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST

    does Ain't it cool pay you guys?

    by HitchCock'n'Balz

    Shouldn't your credentials as a reviewer warrant Cool Hand Luke, and Papillon? Next your gonna say you've never seen The French Connection, or 12 Angry Men, or Citizen

  • June 5, 2008, 1:56 p.m. CST

    Updated my Netflix Queue

    by SkeletonParty

    Don't let me down.

  • June 5, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Gun Crazy Kicks Ass

    by psychedelic

    Watched again not too long ago and damn it's good. I agree with what everyone else has said about its virtues. But I'll add this. Perhaps the end is abrupt, but the fog looks fantastic and gives a great disembodied atmospheric feeling for the finale. Leonard Maltin has it as one of his top 100 of the 20th century.<p> I've seen one other film by director Joseph H. Lewis--Cry of the Hunted (1953)--and it's pretty good. The ending is implausible but the banter between the two leads is enjoyable. In short: a cop chases an escaped con through a backwoods Louisiana swamp. It's worth a look if you can find it. I definately want to see more by Joseph H. Lewis.

  • June 5, 2008, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Cool Hand Luke!

    by Gwai Lo

    Cool, I own that and haven't seen it either. This has been a great and secret shame for me, because I love Paul Newman. The Hustler is one of my all time favorites. I will be able to join you on that one. Should be able to join you for Point Blank as well. As for Gun Crazy, I haven't seen it, but my Dad told me that same story about how he shot a little bird when he was a kid with a bibi gun and felt horrible about it. Maybe he stole it from Gun Crazy.

  • June 5, 2008, 2:23 p.m. CST

    By the way..

    by Gwai Lo

    What if you're like really busy one day? I mean surely you have other obligations on some days? Do you have backup columns written for these occasions? I can't imagine you do, since you're keeping to a schedule

  • June 5, 2008, 2:27 p.m. CST


    by Photosuperstar

    Finally, I've been waiting for the day when I was magical number 22!!

  • June 5, 2008, 2:33 p.m. CST

    Suggestion : WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.?

    by greigy just wanted to say

    Damn this flick is underrated and under appreciated......

  • June 5, 2008, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Getting a Boner, Buddy!

    by Annie The Pod Racer

    These movies look sweet. I can't wait to get my hAnds on them!

  • June 5, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST

    great series.... but

    by mansep

    it would be good if a few more AICNers also had regular columns and these were all put on a separate section.... these movie a day things aren't really "latest news".... dont want to sound like a pooper.... but i guess i do anyway.

  • June 5, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST

    great series.... but

    by mansep

    it would be good if a few more AICNers also had regular columns and these were all put on a separate section.... these movie a day things aren't really "latest news".... dont want to sound like a pooper.... but i guess i do anyway.

  • June 5, 2008, 3:19 p.m. CST

    oh dude,,,, is this series sponsored by Amazon?

    by mansep

  • June 5, 2008, 3:38 p.m. CST

    RE: Cool Hand Luke = Overrated

    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    Danny, Danny, Danny. I'm SO fucking disappointed in you.

  • June 5, 2008, 3:39 p.m. CST

    DGDB...9 times out of 10 would I agree with you..

    by HitchCock'n'Balz

    this is the 10th...Cool Hand is the shit...Walkin it off Boss..

  • June 5, 2008, 4:01 p.m. CST

    Time for neo-neo-noir?

    by MediaNerd

    Haven't seen this one in ages. Love me some film noir though. To be honest I'm surprised it hasn't had big comeback of late. With a bleak thinking society and "money is tight times", I think this genre is ripe for another Neo-wave. <br><br> And Cool Hand is a brilliant movie. Some excellent cinematography, solid acting and a smart script

  • June 5, 2008, 4:07 p.m. CST

    Yeah, Trumbo was blacklisted, but...

    by IMH

    ...he had absolutely no problem whatsoever with getting others blacklisted. (See here: If they dared to tell the truth about the horrible conditions in the USSR, as Arthur Koestler did, Trumbo was all for bouncing them out of Hollywood and making sure they never worked there. And bragged about his successses. In print. Because, another detail that got left out, he actually was a member of the CPUSA, and not a benign, starry-eyed, idealistic one, either. So he's sort of the Ty Cobb of screenwriters --- unquestionably talented, and a lousy human being.

  • June 5, 2008, 4:25 p.m. CST

    From this...

    by Whitemouse

    Review alone, I'm going to look for this movie...

  • June 5, 2008, 6:18 p.m. CST


    by KneelBeforeZod1


  • June 5, 2008, 6:41 p.m. CST

    egregious omissions

    by Carey N.

    Missing Cool Hand Luke is pretty embarrassing, but I'd say that failing to see Rio Bravo and Point Blank is just as bad. Both are amazing, iconic, badass flicks.

  • June 5, 2008, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Great stuff

    by Lance4431

    This is a great movie. Look out for Russ Tamblyn as the younger version of Dall (he was Riff in West Side Story and Laura Palmer's nutjob psychologist in Twin Peaks).

  • June 5, 2008, 7:18 p.m. CST


    by Lance4431

    Didja ever see Class of 1984? B-movie of the best. I'm sure Tarantino either loves it or would love it.

  • June 5, 2008, 9:21 p.m. CST

    An interesting fact about the bank robbing shot.

    by rbatty024

    As you mentioned it's a single shot that lasts for five minutes. They actually had to cut out the back of the car to put the camera there. Then, because the budget was so low only the principle actors knew a scene was being shot. When John says I hope we can find a spot, he's not speaking in character. There really was a chance they wouldn't find a parking spot. Apparently you can hear a lady calling for the police and it's not an actor, it's a real life bystander. <p> Anyway, it's a great fucking movie. One of my favorite noirs. Bonnie and Clyde owes a lot to Gun Crazy. Trumbo really is a genius.

  • June 5, 2008, 10:50 p.m. CST

    Peggy Cummins is SMOKIN' in Gun Crazy

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    And the backseat camera shot is like a proto-Children Of Men. Excellent film. Saw it for the first time recently, and it absolutely kicks ass.

  • June 6, 2008, 2:14 a.m. CST

    Nice job, Quint!

    by My friends call me Killjoy

    I will be seeing GUN CRAZY very soon. Thanks for doing this. I think a lot of people might see some of these movies because of the discussion in this column.

  • June 6, 2008, 2:20 a.m. CST

    now this movie they can remake

    by bacci40

    not fucking "my fair lady" please god...let this project fall apart

  • June 6, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST

    At last

    by NedNederlander

    after following this site for a long time, rarely commenting, here's something to get me interested again, it's great to see discussion going on about classic movies, rather than hearing just about what movie we will/should go see or nerd out on etc. Keep up the good work Quint.

  • June 6, 2008, 8:37 a.m. CST


    by Quint

    That's the hope... These last couple I've been a little absent on in the talkbacks... posted this one right before going to sleep for 12 hours, recovering from about 45 hours of travel in less than 7 days. My internal clock is a little f'd in the a.<BR><BR>Never So Few is written and is coming up within the hour. It's a pretty cool flick.<BR><BR>Killjoy, I'd love it if this column turned some people onto some movies... that's kind of the reason why I'm not just hitting all the big stuff I haven't seen in one fell swoop. I've seen a ton of movies, but there are maybe a handful of films I'd count as embarrassing on the list. But I like peppering them in and kind of coming to them fluidly, like I will with Rio Bravo, hitting it because of following Dean Martin over from SOME CAME RUNNING... That also forces me to watch some of the more obscure movies and be surprised. I'm having fun with it so far and I'm glad to have some regulars following along.

  • June 6, 2008, 11:06 p.m. CST

    Re: Leobloom.

    by rbatty024

    Film Noir had its heyday in the forties. Unfortunately most 1950's film noir feels more or less derivative. Check out Kiss Me Deadly of 1955, widely regarded as the last film noir of its era. If they made a prequel to Crystal Skull then maybe they could have a film noir feel. I'm reminded of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, the superb Steve Martin film noir comedy. It was film noir and it had Nazis. Great parody.

  • June 7, 2008, 5:48 a.m. CST

    Gun Crazy

    by Knuckleduster

    What a great way to start a movie. Feels like you don't get that anymore nowadays. I wish Noir would make more of a comeback, especially period Noir. And I'm not talking about shit like The Black Dahlia.

  • June 7, 2008, 7:55 a.m. CST

    Fuck you Lovefilm

    by jpdisco

    This is becoming a recurring theme...

  • July 5, 2008, 10:53 p.m. CST