The Chase (1946)

Film Review

THE CHASE

Release Date: 17 November, 1946

Studio: United Artists

Director: Arthur Ripley

Starring: Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan, Steve Cochran, Peter Lorre

Based on the novel The Black Path of Fear by Cornell Woolrich

Related Discussion Topic: Cornell Woolrich

Learn about mystery author Cornell Woolrich in our Topics section.

Synopsis

Chuck Scott returns a wallet he found on the street. Impressed by his honesty, Eddie Roman hires him as his chauffer. Roman and his associate, Gino, are ruthless and depraved. They invite Emmerrich Johnson, a rival ship owner, to dinner and murder him. Roman's beautiful wife, Lorna, lives in fear. She often has Chuck drive her to the ocean where she looks across the waves and dreams of freedom. Eventually, Chuck agrees to flee with her to Cuba. He buys the tickets, packs his bags, and lies down on his bed waiting for their planned meeting time. On the boat they admit their love. In Cuba they take a cab ride and are left at a tavern. Drinking at the bar, they are pledging their love when Lorna is suddenly stabbed and killed. Chuck seizes the knife and is holding it when he is arrested for her murder. He tells the police where he bought a similar knife. However, the woman in shop says he bought the knife used in the killing.

In the street, he flees the police and returns to the shop. Gino is talking to the woman. When she demands more money for her silence, he kills her. Gino hears Chuck moving around upstairs, goes up, shoots him, and drops his body into the shop. Chuck awakens from this nightmare confused and disoriented. He calls his army doctor. He tells the doctor that he has had another attack of confusion and nightmare. He feels he had something to do, but he cannot remember what it was. He and the doctor go out for a drink. Lorna is waiting anxiously for him. Roman vindictively locks her in her room and goes out to a bar with Gino. Chuck sees Roman and Gino at the bar and remembers his scheduled meeting with Lorna. He goes to the house and releases her from her room. They go to the boat, but it will be late to sail. They fear that Roman and Gino will learn that they are running away and come after them. Roman and Gino learn that Chuck bought tickets to Cuba and realize that he is going away with Lorna. They race to intercept the escaping pair before the boat sails. Roman, who is controlling the accelerator, is determined to catch them, and he has the car racing at high speed. At a railroad crossing, he attempts to outrace the coming train and does not make it. Lorna and Chuck are safe. In a Cuban cab, they embrace, kiss, and pledge their love.

Discussion

The Chase is one of the most bizarre film noirs. A long section in the middle is an eerie dream during which the heroine is knifed and dies. The hero goes on a strange quest to prove that he did not kill her, but his investigation seemingly ends with his murder by Lorre. The audience does not realize that this weird and startling sequence is a dream until Cummings wakes up confused and forgetful. The film also features a couple of first rate, creepy villains. Cochran's screen presence is crazier and more disturbing than Lorre's. The deaths of the deranged villains are satisfying. Lorre, trapped by a crazy man in the speeding car, makes a series of terrified faces. Cochran just stares straight ahead. Adding to the bizarreness of the film, the final shot shows the same carriage with the same driver in front of the same nightclub that Cummings had dreamed about. How is this repetition to be explained? Overall this film is quite good film noir. The actor who tells Cochran and Lorre about Cummings buying the tickets to Cuba is Don Wilson, the long time announcer of The Jack Benny Program. How did he get into this film noir? Based on the novel The Black Path of Fear (1944) by Cornell Woolrich.