This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942)


Alan Ladd (Philip Raven), Veronica Lake (Ellen Graham), Robert Preston (Michael Crane). Screenplay by Albert Malz et al. Directed by Frank Tuttle. Rating: PG. Running time: 80 minutes.

Now this is a noir with real gusto, and a villain to genuinely fear. The all too delicious duo of Ladd and Lake pays huge dividends here, capitalising on a good story and giving us exactly what we want: a killer not once hesitant to pull the trigger, escorting his new delicate darling across the terrain of police hunts in the glorious name of revenge and, in the end, patriotism! That’s right; here we have a foolish attempt at cheating a professional hit man out of his earnings by paying him in freshly minted traceable bills – he’s having none of it – mixed in with the subplot of nihilist crooks selling warfare ideas to the Japanese. Ladd spends the film running after the man who cheated him whilst the police run after him, and Lake plays the nightclub magician paid to become an undercover spy and who ends up falling into his hands. The type of Hitchcockian chases dominating the end of the film are great fun, and the feel they ensure is undoubtedly of the kind that The Blue Dahlia would have benefited from. As it is, this came first and did noir better. I’m yet to see a film of this kind greater than Double Indemnity, but This Gun for Hire is suitably worthy competition.

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