Too Late for Tears

Year 1949

Lizabeth Scott as  Jane Palmer
Don DeFore as Don Blake
Dan Duryea as Danny Fuller
Arthur Kennedy   as Alan Palmer
Kristine Miller as Kathy Palmer  
Director - Byron Haskin
Screenwriter - Roy Huggins

From the hundred mystery movies for thirty bucks collection comes Too Late for Tears. There has to be a winner or two in the collection, at least if you like film noir.

The concept behind film noir is simple enough. Take a murder mystery, add lots of shady characters and locations, and garnish with a plot twist. Your film noir is served.

In book form, the masters of the genre in my opinion are Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, and Dashiel Hammett in that order. All three have one thing in common and that is that the females have colder blood than the males unless a male is wrapped in the armor of a shining knight. Of the three, Jim Thompson considers white knights optional. His are the darkest and most twisted of the tales.

Film noir titles always have to be foreboding and forbidding, like, "Farewell, My Lovely" or "The Killer Inside Me" or "Red Harvest". The title of this movie, "Too Late for Tears," fits the bill nicely.

Based on the title, the plot deals with something bad that's happening based on an event that twisted someone a while ago. That pretty much sums it up.

What sets this movie apart is the sociopathic nature of the villainess. This is not a spoiler. Within the first five minutes of the movie, you know that this is one "special" woman and woe to any man who crosses her or gets in the way of her pursuit of the good life.

One night, she and her husband quarrel on a ride over to their friends' house. Psycho-woman Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) nearly wrecks the car to get her way. In the end, a satchel of money is dropped in their car and Jane's true nature surfaces.

Alan Palmer, played by Arthur Kennedy, the 1940s version of Harrison Ford, is the first to get an idea of what his wife Jane is capable of.

There are lots of good things to say about Lizabeth Scott's portayal. She does a great job of trying to show her inner conflict. Should she be the good wife and remain semi-happily married? Or should she give in to her darker side and pursue her dreams of indulgence? Fate lends a hand and once the path has been chosen, Jane owns the road.

The aplomb with which Jane makes up lies on the spot is astonishing and convincing. Have you ever met a woman like this? I have. I was lucky to get out with my soul only slightly dented.

For Jane, her creed is, "What have you got? I'll take it and it still won't be enough." The only down side is that the femme fatale is not that beautiful. She reminded me of girl-next-door June Allyson, only blonde, and a little dirty, and very dangerous. Lizabeth Scott is good looking enough to be convincing in her role as a destroyer of weaker men.

Kristine Miller as Kennedy's sister is better looking in a wholesome and pretty way. In fact, just considering the looks category, this woman should have played the devil girl. That would have sent chills up my spine. Don DeFore as the lumpy potential champion Don Blake is another alright choice. (Don Blake? Dr. Don Blake? Thor? Huh?)

What's flawed about the movie is kind of a lot. The transfer by Mill Creek stinks. There are audio issues and missing frames. For thirty cents, though, it's worth every penny.

Outside of the transfer, the movie's pacing is odd. The first part of the movie kind of drags and the last part zips by too quickly. With the exception of Lizabeth Scott, characters far too often don't react with a convincing amount of pathos. For acting chops, she and Arthur Kennedy are winners. I guess that's why she, and not Kristine Miller, was chosen for the lead.

Another down side is the cardboard looking sets. Not a lot of thought went into the locations, or maybe there wasn't much of a budget for scenery, which is a shame. This movie could have been better.

It's dated. It's a poor transfer. But it's neither stale nor derivative, even when it's predictable. There's an efficiency of speech that keeps things moving without seeming contrived. The ending houses a nice twist.

It's better than, say, A Simple Plan because the characters are not stereotypes like they are in the modern version of found money.

If you like film noir, this is a diamond in the rough.

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