Title frame for Killer Bait [a.k.a. Too Late for Tears] (dir. Byron Haskin, 1949).
Arthur Kennedy and Lizabeth Scott.
Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea.
Much of this film looks like it was shot in a cardboard box. This has more to do with Byron Haskin's just-adequate direction and the general low budget, I think, than with William Mellor's cinematographic skill, which is considerable (the degraded quality of the print doesn't help). But you know what? It doesn't even matter, because you've got Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea as two of the noiriest characters you've ever seen, and they play it for all it's worth. In fact, the overall crappiness of production values and lack of compositional gloss adds to the squalor of the story. A bag of money accidentally gets thrown into a married couple's car, and though the husband (Arthur Kennedy) wants to do the right thing and turn it in, he's a weak sap, and the wife (Scott) takes charge. Then the guy the money was really meant for (Duryea) shows up, and things get really ugly. Don DeFore enters the mix as a questionable man from the past and keeps everyone on their toes. There are all kinds of loose plot ends and half-baked motivations: it's hard to figure out how Scott gets Duryea to the point where he's going out and buying poison for her, but that's part of the beauty of it. These people are just going off half-cocked all over the place.
Labels: Byron Haskin