Written by: Carroll Jenkins on May 19th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, January 20th, 1950
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Writers: Millard Kaufman, Mackinlay Kantor
Cast: Berry Kroeger, Peggy Cummins, Morris Carnovsky, John Dall
DVD released: July 6th, 2004
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital mono English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
DVD Release: Warner Brothers
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.97
Synopsis: A young boy has an obsession with guns, though he can’t shoot any living thing and his abilities as a sharpshooter don’t help him integrate into society. He then meets carnival sharpshooter “Laurie Annie Starr”, and they are driven together by their mutual passion for guns. Laurie, however, is psychologically damaged merchandise, and eventually masterminds a Bonnie and Clyde type crime spree.
Gun Crazy is a noir due to a protagonist who is doomed once he falls for the femme fatale. “Laurie Annie Starr” differs from your typical black widow in that she genuinely cares for Bart, but cannot control her base instincts for cruelty and violence. Gun Crazy is a psychological study that examines the cause and effect of obsession and passion that leads to doomed romance. But most of all, Gun Crazy is a couple on the lam crime spree drama that progresses from mom and pop store hold ups, to bank jobs, to inside payroll heists, to the inevitable showdown.
The script is mostly fast paced and exciting, with innovative and inspirational cinematography and direction. Probably the most famous set piece is the single take bank robbery shot entirely from the back seat of the getaway car. Another stand out sequence is the seedy carnival where Laurie first sets her sights on Bart.
Peggy Cummings is an English actress best known for her appearance in the masterful Curse Of The Demon (Night Of The Demon). Here she is passionate, desirable, and incorrigible. John Dall appeared in Hitchcock’s Rope, and does a solid job here. We identify and accept the flaws of the protagonists, even when Laurie brutally murders a woman, we understand her frustration and anger. The only completely unsympathetic character in the film is Berry Kroeger as the ultra sleazy carnival owner. Also notable is Russ Tamblyn’s portrayal of Bart as a boy.
The black and white academy ratio film looks very nice. Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. Audio commentary by Glen Erickson (“DVD Savant”) For such an obscure film this is a quality presentation.
Obviously not as violent as the later Bonnie And Clyde, nor as melodramatic as They Live By Night, Gun Crazy / Deadly Is The Female is a top contender for best criminal couple on the lam movie. Essential viewing.
Note: Gun Crazy is also available as part of Warner Brothers “Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 1” which also includes these titles (The Asphalt Jungle, Murder My Sweet, Out of the Past, The Set-Up).