I Walk Alone (Haskin, 1948)

I Walk Alone is a strange film.  Kind of a poor man’s Out of the Past, due in no small part to the involvement of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in both films, it doesn’t really gain any momentum until the final 15 minutes, and by then it’s too late.  Nevertheless, here are four reasons to see (or not to see I Walk Alone):

1. Kirk Douglas’ hair.  Holy crap. If there is every a usage for the word ‘coiffure’ this is it.  This thing has a mind of its own, albeit a shiny and always either ruggedly messy or tightly compact mind of its own.  Mid-massage Douglas gets a phone call (the man is always talking into phones and intercoms in this film – a way-too-obvious commentary on his role as “modern man” versus Lancaster who is stuck in the past).  He’s face down, but when he rises to take the receiver about eight of his front strands of hair freeze hanging halfway down his forehead.  I think they were gelled into place like that before the camera rolled.  It’s absurd.  And the lighting.  There are definitely hair lights, but this was like a hair spot-light.  His hair is either absurdly greasy (my guess) or it’s actually a vinyl record stretched into a half-circle.

2. Ooze.  Everyone in this film oozes something.  Burt Lancaster oozes cool.  Kirk Douglas oozes sleaze.  Lizbeth Scott (why do people find this woman attractive?  I could say the same for Kirk.) oozes animal magnetism (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, anyone?).  Even Wendell Corey oozes acquiescence.  One day, I want someone to say that I ooze cool.  Knowing my luck they’ll probably say that I ooze something else.

3. The music.  I could turn the image off completely and still understand 85% of the movie.  That’s a bad thing, in my opinion.  I haven’t heard such a cued soundtrack since Fantasia.  Listen, I understand that music is there to underscore and sometimes even emphasize emotion and mood.  I’m okay with that.  But every single “important” (” = sarcasm) shot in this has its own orchestral movement.  Beer that was symbolic long ago of a friendship now broken is delivered.  The drums hit.  Someone lights a match.  A cello cells (chells).

and 4.  Production Code coitus lingo.  Paraphrase of a conversation between Lancaster and Scott:

Scott: (about champagne and why she likes it) “It’s great.  There’s a huge build-up and then the top pops off. [I’m actually talking about sex].”

Lancaster: “Sounds like you’re really excited. [Good, because I just got out of jail].”

Scott: “But sometimes the build-up is the best part [most men I’ve been with don’t, ahem].”

Lancaster: “Did I mention I have puppy dog eyes [Did I mention I have puppy dog eyes]?”

So that’s all I’ve got for I Walk Alone.  The film is average at best.  The acting is surprisingly wooden for its cast, the cinematography subpar for a cinematographer-turned-director, the plotting ridiculous, and the ending not dark enough for a mid-period noir.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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