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The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946)

A last-act plot twist, equally likely to alienate as to fascinate, makes Arthur Ripley’s obscure 1946 film noir The Chase an especially bizarre jaunt through a nightmarish crime world. Things begin rather predictably here. Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings), a down on his luck former Navy man, finds a wallet full of money and, after treating himself to a breakfast, returns it to its owner who happens to be a gangster (Steve Cochran). After some slight indoctrination into the gangster’s shady world, Chuck meets the thug’s wife (Michèle Morgan), who quickly devises an escape plan to Havana. Until this point, despite great casting (including Peter Lorre as a heavy), exceptionally moody cinematography and admirable efficiency, The Chase does little to distinguish itself from other films of its ilk. Its themes are familiar. Adultery is intertwined with crime, a post-war malaise has overtaken the nation, and honesty is something to be exploited. Chuck, “a silly, law-abiding jerk” and decorated war hero is drawn into a web of crime as a result of his decision to return the wallet that he finds and is later told “you’ve got the kind of face women would like to talk to.” Once the action detours to Havana, however, The Chase moves into uncharted territory entirely.


More than any classic film noir that I can think of, The Chase stands as a predecessor to David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr.. It features the sudden outbursts of violence, intoxicating musical interludes, scary car rides, and stumbles through eerie darkness of that film. More importantly though, even more than most noir, it becomes dominated by its dream logic. Past a certain point, things become downright disorienting, with characters returning from the grave, repeating their mistakes and courting death all over again. The effect is deeply disturbing, on a level that mere plays with shadows and venetian blinds could never achieve. Similarities exist between The Chase and a contemporary masterwork as well, namely Hitchcock’s Notorious, which was produced the same year. The films share a Florida setting (unusual for the genre), blondes married to thugs, memorably long kissing scenes, and suspenseful sequences involving wine cellars. Fans of Hitchcock’s film, deservedly remembered as a classic, will likely find plenty to enjoy in The Chase as well. Based on the Cornell Woolrich novel, The Black Path of Fear, this largely forgotten B-movie is a singular work, helmed by Arthur Ripley, a credited director with a scant four features.



Jeremy Heilman