Sometimes good films fall into the cracks and are not able to get the audience they deserve. This is the case with this fine Fox film noir starring famous in France actor Jean Gabin (Grand Illusion, Pepe le Moko). This film from the 1940s is directed mostly by Archie Mayo (The Man with Two Faces, The Adventures of Marco Polo), but had some of its scenes done by Fritz Lang (Metropolis, ) and a scene by the great painter Salvador Dali. That's quite a bit of pedigree for a largely ignored film.
A lifelong drifter, Bobo (Jean Gabin), is encouraged to put down roots when he falls for a beautiful young woman (Ida Lupino – Road House, High Sierra). Bobo lands in a pacific seaside town with his pal Tiny (Thomas Mitchell – High Noon, It's a Wonderful Life), who wants him to leave the town quickly. But Bobo insists on going to the local tavern and proceeds to get rip-roaring drunk. Bobo wakes up the next day on a strange barge and is wearing the cap of a man who was murdered the night before. As he cannot remember much, Bobo keeps the fact that he has the cap a secret. He now, thinking he might have killed a man, prepares to quickly leave town. But his plans to flee are put on hold when he meets Anna (Ida Lupino) while rescuing her from committing suicide by drowning. The two fall in love while running a business selling bait.
Tiny is not happy that he and Bobo are not leaving town and he is also jealous of Anna. To get his way, Tiny tries to sabotage Anna and Bobo's relationship. Anna discovers that Tiny has a secret he's been hiding. It becomes apparent that only one of them would make it through alive.
When done well film noir can be totally gripping and this one will have a hold on you from the opening scenes in the bar. It has a lot of fog (seemingly a prerequisite of film noir) and a dark, foreboding sense throughout. The story isn't the greatest, but Jean Gabin makes up for it with his performance. It is a b movie (low production, cheap sets, etc.) that is brought up by the lead actor's performance. Also, Lupino and Gabin have a nice chemistry together.
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