Time: 97 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
SYNOPSIS: A small-town gas station owner is forced to confront the shady dealings of his deceitful acquinatances that he tried to leave in the past. To make up for his previous failure, he is not so gently compelled to complete one more job for his former boss that he knows is a trap in the hopes he can escape their clutches for good.
All hell breaks lose when Kathy chooses a bullet to solve their dilemma then disappears into the night, leaving Jeff holding the corpse. Jeff was hoping he could start a new life away from Whit and especially Kathy but a peaceful future just isn't in the cards. Whit wants payback, devising a clever scheme to land Jeff in jail or in the grave, however, Kathy, now back in the fold, has other plans for herself and Jeff that she's not about to let Whit ruin. Caught in the middle with nowhere to run, Jeff discovers the hard way that you can't outrun your past, proving the love of a good woman can't disintegrate the influence of a bad one.
As good as Mitchum is here, he can't hold a candle to the depths of deviousness performed by the lovely and lethal Jane Greer. The men in her chracater's life are like Kleenex for an allergy sufferer something you desperately need until it serves it's purpose and then quickly dispose of. Kathy's (Greer) sticky fingers and bad aim put her on the wrong side of notorious gambler Whit Sterling (Douglas), a man who doesn't take kindly to being robbed and shot...especially by a woman. He hires Jeff Markham (Mitchum) to find her and the $40k she took and bring her back to him. Jeff can't understand why until he meets her. It doesn't take long for him to fall under her spell, leaving him with no choice but to double-cross Whit and run away with his newfound love.
Filmed at the height of film noir, this piece is a perfect example of the genre from the moody and dark art direction to the complex plot filled with the most crooked and mean-spirited characters you're ever likely to meet which is what makes it so much fun. Noirs are usually city-bound, but PAST uses exotic outdoor locations to generate contrasting tones and facilitate physical movement amongst the characters broadening the scope of the story. The final third gets more than a little convoluted (which kills the buzz a bit) as all the schemes to cross and double-cross Jeff and Whit collide, but it doesn't really matter if you understand what's going on.
In the long run, the film is about people and how far they'll go to get what they want, not who stole from whom. In this instance, they aren't very moral people, so murder is often the first and only option used to clear up a compromising situation. Kathy is the maelstorm that starts and ends the trouble and she's so deliciously self-absorbed that she makes it hard to hate her. Greer takes seduction to a whole new level here, giving the performance of her career. While neither Mitchum nor Douglas will blow you away, they perform admirably, giving their usual tough guy roles a touch of humor and pathos that adds depth and subtlety to the film. Both are smart enough not to be trapped by Kathy's beauty, but neither has the strength to walk away. Some may find the ending a bit harsh, however, in noir you usually get what you pay for and in this case it's not happily ever after.