Sunday, May 20, 2012

GUN CRAZY (1950) - Joseph H. Lewis

If happiness is a warm gun, then absolute nirvana is a blonde in a cowgirl hat holding a warmer one directly on you. That seems to be the case for John Dall, an aw-shucks pistol diddler from birth who's trying to reform his ballistic impulses until he meets sideshow sharpshooter Peggy Cummins and falls lock, stock and barrel in love. Dall's a crack shot but has reservations where his bullets go. A wily mountain lion even gets a pass at one point. Cummins is not so choosy. Bank tellers, store clerks, random people in the street. All have targets on their backs (and fronts).

The Bonnie and Clyde legend has given birth to a number of great couples crime spree films over the years: Bonnie and ClydeThieves Like UsNatural Born Killers and beyond. Gun Crazy was one of the first and is definitely one of the best. Watching it for the first time, the "spree" elements felt a little stale, having seen this storyline many times before and knowing where it was headed. Where Gun Crazy still captivates are the early scenes. The young lead breaking a store window in the pouring rain to steal a prized revolver. The aforementioned mountain lion scene. The breathtaking carnival act sequence where Dall first sees Cummins on stage and is invited to trade fire with her, each lighting candles with bullets millimeters away from the other's heads. I would call it the ultimate meet-cute, if it weren't so deadly dangerous.

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