Monday, August 25, 2014

I remember the video game

Dick Powell, who is being honored by TCM in Summer Under the Stars today, spent the first half of his career making light musicals, and much of the second half of his career making rather darker movies. One of those darker movies that I've never blogged about before is Pitfall, which comes on at 4:15 PM.

Powell plays John Forbes, who at the start of the movie is enjoying his solid middle-class life in a suburban house with his wife Sue (Jane Wyatt) and son Tommy, eating one of those typical middle-class breakfasts from the middle of the last century that show up on film and TV. Sue drives John to the insurance agency where he's been working the same job for years, and reminds John of that night's dinner date, which has been with the same people they've been having dinner with once a week every week for years. It's a solid, but boring life.

In fact, John makes such an obviously overloud complaint about his boring lot in life that you know his life is going to become much less boring in a reel or two. That excitement starts off when John gets to his office and finds private investigator MacDonald (Raymond Burr) in his office. This was in the stage of Burr's career whne he was playing the bad guys, and even just in that first scene in Forbes' office, we can see that his character is rather creepy. MacDonald had been hired by the insurance company to find out what a convicted embezzler named Smiley did with the money, since Forbes' firm is having ot pay out on the insurance claim to the company from which Smiley had embezzled. It turns out that Smiley had bought a bunch of gifts for his girlfriend Mona (Lizabeth Scott), so the insurance company is going to try to repossess those items. MacDonald has done his job; now it's time for Forbes to take over.

So Forbes heads over to Mona's place. Unsurprisingly, Mona doesn't like him at first -- would you like a guy whose job it was to repossess your stuff? Mona realizes, though, as the rest of us do, that Forbes' job is kind of boring, so she's determined to make it more exciting, fur by taking him out for a drink, and then the next day taking him for a ride on the boat that was one of the things Smiley had bought for her. Forbes is beginning to spend entirely too much time with Mona, and predictably, he's beginning to fall for her. He's about to get that excitement he wanted in life, but who says it's a good thing?

Obivously, Forbes' relationship with Mona is a problem because of the fact that he's already married. But there's another problem: the ever-creepy MacDonald. MacDonald had also fallen for Mona when he was investigated her, and he's not about to have anybody else muscle in on his relationship with Mona. Never mind what Mona wants, which is certainly not a relationship with MacDonald. Heck, she's even willing to break off the relationship with Forbes when she finds out that he's married. But MacDonald is still harassing her, and Forbes is the only person who can do anything about it....

Pitfall is quite enjoyable. Dick Powell is eminently capable as the basically good guy who screws up big time, drawing on his experience making all those musicals to play the good father, and then the experience from those darker movies when he's trying to cover up his mistakes. Lizabeth Scott is more than suitable as the femme fatale; it's easy to see why both Forbes and MacDonald would fall for her. Once again, though, it's Raymond Burr as the heavy who's the most entertaining to watch. He's a manipulative bastard here, and boy is Raymond Burr making his character look like a creepy jerk.

Pitfall did get a DVD release a couple of years ago, in that it's available at Amazon, but it seems to be out of print as it's not available at the TCM Shop.

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