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Author Topic: Pitfall (1948)  (Read 2629 times)
cigar joe
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« on: July 16, 2012, 07:59:40 PM »

Director: André De Toth Stars: Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Raymond Burr, Byron Barr, and Jane Wyatt



A creepy little film with Powell starring as a disgruntled bored married claims adjuster who becomes smitten with femme fatale Scott as the forbidden fruit he encounters during a routine recovery of stolen funds. Funds stolen and converted into gifts for Scott by Byron Barr, Scott's boyfriend who is doing time. Raymond Burr plays a creepy PI who works with Powell's firm and he is also obsessed with Scott. Jane Wyatt plays Powell's wife. Not very visually stylistically Noir but the subject matter is on the dark side, turning the future staple 50's TV family sitcom vision on its ear. Scott is surprisingly very appealing in this as a sweet and innocent catalyst to the downfall of three men.

Powell & Scott



Burr & Scott



Wyatt



Powell was impressive playing a completely different character from the previous noirs I've seen him in, 8/10

again I quote bmacv of IMDB:
 
De Toth's subversive look at the organization man gone astray, 8 August 2004

Author: bmacv from Western New York

Andre De Toth's Pitfall opens in the shaky sanctuary of post-war domestic bliss. Jane Wyatt cracks eggs into a cast-iron skillet, to be served to her insurance-claims adjuster husband Dick Powell and their tousle-haired young son; the cozy breakfast nook where they exchange morning what-if banter looks out upon a vista of the New California of subdivisions and revolving credit and sunny possibilities yet to be realized. But, as Wyatt drives Powell into downtown Los Angeles (two-car families still being around the corner), he grouses absently about his routine job and clockwork schedule before giving her a perfunctory peck on the cheek. The canker has invaded the rose. As he later confesses, he feels he's in a rut `six feet deep,' and yearns for freedom – adventure. He gets more than he bargained for.

Waiting for him in his office is `Gruesome,' private investigator Raymond Burr, who's done some legwork concerning a convicted felon who has defrauded the company. The felon (Byron Barr) squandered most of his ill-gained money showering his girlfriend (Lizabeth Scott) with furs, an engagement ring and even a little speedboat. Burr, in the course of his sleazy sleuthing, has taken quite an obsessive fancy to her, but Powell warns him off, saying he'll wrap the case up himself.

At first Scott dismisses Powell as just `a little man with a briefcase,' an assessment that tallies too well with his own worst self-image. But to no one's surprise, in this climate of Pacific air and marital dissatisfaction, he ends up taking his own fancy to her, one that turns out to be mutual. They tear around the harbor in her boat, then fritter away the rest of the afternoon in a dim cocktail lounge. He doesn't get back to hearth and home ‘till the wee small hours.

One night when his son is awakened by nightmares, Powell lectures him: `Take only good pictures and have only good dreams.' It's a case of do what I say, not what I do. By veering off from the straight and narrow, Powell has set into motion a chain of baleful events. The vindictive Burr assaults him outside his garage. Scott discovers that Powell's been hiding his life as a married father. Ex-cop Burr starts visiting Barr in stir, sowing seeds of jealousy and plans for revenge. Events converge one dreadful night with an unplanned pair of killings that leave the quick, arguably, worse off than the dead....

Jay Dratler's script (from his own novel) shows a progressive streak in dealing with the short and unpredictable fuses of controlling, potentially violent males – stalkers. The script also serves the assembled cast well. True, there's not much to be done with Wyatt, with her cap-sleeved house-dresses and finishing-school elocution, but she's more plausible than she would be two years later as a highly unlikely femme fatale in The Man Who Cheated Himself. Here, she's the distaff side of those male dictators, a wife whose ideals of suburban decorum are chiseled into cold marble (she's a faint forerunner of Joan Crawford's Harriet Craig).

But Powell gets to tap deeply into his key emotion, snappish discontent, and lets it deepen into something close to small-time tragedy. Scott, always an iconic presence but an actress with limits, finds a comfortable part as a bewildered and vulnerable victim of the men who come into her life, bidden and unbidden. Burr, billed fourth (after Wyatt!), possibly fares best. Much in demand in the late ‘40s as one of the creepiest heavies, he earned that demand by providing extra (and maybe unasked-for) dimensions to the thugs he played. Like the giant Fafner in Das Rheingold, he lets a bit of yearning, of desperation, show under all his intimidating bulk (and in sheer avoirdupois, it's one of his biggest roles).

De Toth, better remembered for his westerns and 3-D horror pix like House of Wax, made, in Pitfall, one of the more distinctive titles of the noir cycle. Not often mentioned in top-ten lists, even those of black-and-white crime films of the post-war era, it has the effrontery to situate deceit and duplicity and betrayal where it surely ought not to belong – not in road houses or tenement flats but right at the heart of a storybook American family (it's one of the more subversive films of the era).. Yes, there are lapses, chief among which is a score that keeps trying to crack corny little jokes. But in the denouement – far from unleashing a hideous storm of terror, De Toth opts for cold detachment – he casts a chill that lingers still.

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« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2012, 11:34:55 PM »

Powell was impressive playing a completely different character from the previous noirs I've seen him in, 8/10


I see your rating has grown in a few hours. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2012, 03:59:27 AM »


I see your rating has grown in a few hours. Roll Eyes

Yes I re-watched it, I still don't think its very Noir visually, hence my first knee-jerk rating, but it is effective as a story of obsession and events out of control, I won't go as high as bmacv, I'm just on a quest for visually dark noirs at the moment, and it doesn't really fit that bill.  Cool

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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2013, 02:49:40 PM »

I'm a fan of De Toth, so I'm legitimately surprised how dull this movie truly is - the script, the acting and even the visuals.

This plays it about as safe and as bland as possible. Forty minutes of plot was stretched into 85 incredibly long, boring minutes.

I'm very forgivable when it comes to flaws in good - or even interesting - movies but I don't have any tolerance for forgettable, draggy boredom inducing movies like this.

5-6/10



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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2013, 01:27:38 PM »

This plays it about as safe and as bland as possible. Forty minutes of plot was stretched into 85 incredibly long, boring minutes.
That's about right.

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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2013, 10:57:23 AM »

I'm glad someone agrees with me.

According to Noir of the Week, Bogart was originally cast in Raymond Burr's role but De Toth opted for Burr.

That is one of the weirdest bits of trivia I've ever encountered. That's something he'd play in '38, not '48. And it's not like Pitfall was some huge production, either. That's so weird.

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Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre. What did you think of the script?
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2013, 10:07:57 PM »

I give the movie a 7/10. Saw it on TCM, the quality was pretty bad. Especially the whites of the faces looked bad, way too bright like they were bathed in light.

Doesn't make sense Bogart would have taken the role played by Burr unless it was vastly expanded. Bogie was a leading man in every movie he made after High Sierra.

CJ, once again, it's time you stop penalizing movies just because they aren't noir enough for you. Is it Pitfall's fault that you are on a quest for visually dark noirs? By that logic, I should give Casablanca a low rating when I am on a quest for a good Western  Tongue

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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2014, 06:18:00 AM »

It always escaped me how Lizabeth Scott could have such a career with those pouches under her eyes: she's a pain to watch. More of a sentimental drama than a crime movie. I give it 5\10 only because I like indiscriminately Dick Powell. 

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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2014, 06:26:19 AM »

It always escaped me how Lizabeth Scott could have such a career with those pouches under her eyes: she's a pain to watch.  

I don't remember anything about pouches under her eyes, but she definitely brings nothing to the table in the looks department, she's got this bad lisp, nothing special acting-wise; in general she just feels to me like a "B-Movie" actress; couldn't afford anyone special, so let's just get anyone who we can get cheap. I mean, I have no idea how much money she made or whether or not she ever was an actual star; I'm just saying that anytime I watch her, I never get the feeling that she'd have been the first choice of any casting director with a decent budget

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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2014, 06:50:16 AM »

I don't remember anything about pouches under her eyes,

Time to go to an optometrist.

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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2014, 07:26:43 AM »

Time to go to an optometrist.

I haven't seen any of her movies in a while; I am not saying she doesn't have them, I am just saying I don't REMEMBER it from last time I saw her, whenever that was  Wink

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« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2016, 10:13:29 PM »

Just saw the movie again, on TCM.

I stand by my previous 7/10 rating.

Best thing about this movie is Raymond Burr.

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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2016, 02:23:43 AM »

Just saw the movie again, on TCM.

I stand by my previous 7/10 rating.

Best thing about this movie is Raymond Burr.

Saw the pouches?

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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2016, 12:43:49 PM »

It's the armpit hair he can't stand.

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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2016, 12:59:01 PM »

Ohh, come on, that Raymond Burr has armpit hair was always only a malicious rumour, cause he forgot once to shave his legs. But it is long proved that it was just an ugly rumour.

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