Quicksand is directed by Irving Pichel (The Most Dangerous Game/ Destination Moon) and written by Robert Smith. It stars Mickey Rooney, Jeanne Cagney, Barbara Bates & Peter Lorre. Lionel Lindon photographs it around Santa Monica, California, and Louis Gruenberg scores the music.
Auto mechanic Dan Brady (Rooney) fancies himself as a ladies man, so when he sets eyes on sultry looking blonde Vera Novak (Cagney), he just has to date her. Intending to put it back tomorrow, Dan borrows $20 from the till of the garage where he works, the money to be used for the date with Vera. However, with Vera comes baggage, not only in what she wants out of Dan, but in the form of her ex-boss Nick Dramoshag (Lorre), who has designs on Vera too. Pretty soon Dan finds that his life is getting out of control as he gets in deep with robbery and maybe even murder?.
Quicksand was received coldly back on its release, a generation of film goers had grown accustomed to Rooney lighting up the screen as Andy Hardy and turning in frothy performances in musicals. Here he goes against type, and the public wasn't ready for it, even tho he arguably gives one of his best career performances. As a film it's a very tight piece. The plot is in the classic noir tradition of having a male protagonist trapped in a downward spiral, no matter what he does, each decision he makes is a wrong one and only worsens his situation. That there's a blonde femme fatale (Cagney is sexy in a powerful way, with shifty glances telling so much) sat at his side as his life goes belly up; still further fuels the darker edges of the film noir feel. There's a devilishly bitter irony hanging over proceedings, too, that Dan could have escaped all this if he had not spurned the attentions of the more homely, but loyal, Helen (an adorable Bates). The film, and tone, is also boosted by Lorre turning in one of his sleazy sloth like performances, while a mention is warranted for Art Smith as Dan's boss, Oren Mackay, the kind of boss you could easily punch for fun.
We possibly could have done with some more noirish artistry from Lindon for his photography, but he does OK, with a parking lot/back alley pursuit well shot. While Gruenberg's score is right in tone, especially the theme tune piece, which has a distinctly Cape Fear edge to it. It would come as no surprise to me to find that Bernard Herrmann had watched and listened to Quicksand prior to scoring the Mitchum & Peck classic. Look out too for Red Nichols and His Five Pennies band during a club scene, it's a nice touch that adds a bit of period detail. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, Quicksand doesn't hang around, it's briskly paced and suspenseful into the bargain. Certainly it's minor film noir, but all things considered, it's one of the better B's from this most wonderful of genres. 7.5/10
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