CERT: PG / FORMAT: BLU-RAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
This Gun for Hire is revered as a gem of the film-noir genre. Although it bears many of the tropes associated with noir, the expressionistic lighting that is so iconic of Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, and Robert Siodmak isn’t one of them. This is not to detract from director Frank Tuttle’s work as the film is a Hollywood golden era masterclass in creating a taut quick-fire, crime film.
Faithfully adapting Graham Greene’s 1936 novel, This Gun for Hire stars the gorgeous Veronica Lake as nightclub magician Ellen, and introduced Alan Ladd as the cat loving, sociopathic assassin Philip Raven. After completing a hit Raven is paid in off in marked bills by his employer who happens to be working for foreign spies. The man Raven assassinated was a blackmailer who had in his possession a formula for a lethal poison gas, and paying Raven off in marked bills was a way to tie-up loose ends. Raven is out for revenge when his path crosses with Ellen which plunges her into a world of danger and violence.
Ladd and Lake were to make several more films together and it’s easy to see why. The pair exude pure chemistry, and although romance between the characters is non-existent (Raven has every intention of killing Ellen once she has outlived her usefulness) the pair bounce of each other to perfection. As with other Eureka! releases, the special features include an audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin, a trailer, and two radio adaptations. Both make for great listening, particularly if you enjoy American radio dramas of the era.