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Too Late for Tears
Byron Haskin directs the 1949 thriller Too Late For Tears, a strong film noir entry that stars the beautiful Lizabeth Scott as Jane Palmer, a housewife who lives with her husband, Alan (Arthur Kennedy). When we meet the couple they're driving their convertible out to visit some friends one night when a passing car tosses a bag at them which lands in the back seat. They pull over and Jane opens the bag to find that it's stuffed with cash. Just then, another car shows up and Jane takes charging, grabbing the wheel from her husband and driving them out of what she rightly assumes will be danger.
When they make it home, they talk amongst themselves as to what to do with the loot. Alan wants to give it to the cops, Jane wants to keep it. She sweet talks him into letting it stay with them for a few days, to see what happens, before going to the fuzz. The next morning Alan goes off to work, while Jane? She does some shopping, paying for all the things she could ever want with the newly discovered cash. Alan might think they're going to go to the cops but Jane's clearly got other plans, and they don't necessarily involve him. We learn this when she gets home and stashes all of her new loot so that her husband won't see it. It doesn't work and soon enough, he's on to her and wanting once again to go to the cops, but Jane's got a way with words. She tells him how she grew up poor, how tough it was on her family, how she never wants to live like that again. Things get even more complicated for the pair when a thug named Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) shows up looking for the loot. Before you know it, Alan has disappeared, his sister, Kathy (Kristine Miller), has hooked up with Don Blake (Don Defore), a man purporting to be an old war buddy of her brothers, and things start to get dangerous for all involved…
Tightly paced and remarkably efficient, Too Late For Tears sets up Scott's character early on: she's out for herself, and if her husband gets in the way, well, too bad for him. She wants that money and is clearly fine with doing whatever she needs to do in order to ensure that she gets to keep it. As the story unfolds and the plot makes its myriad twists and turns, her greed takes her into increasingly dangerous territory, but it doesn't stop her. Scott is fantastic in the role. She's well cast here, her character never above using her feminine wiles to lure the men in the story into seeing things her way. It might be the text book femme fatale stereotype, but it's done so well in this film that it never feels like a cliché. The way that her lust for money takes over once that bag of cash lands in the car, it's almost sexual. Pay attention to her when she's actually holding the cash, there's a very definite and intentional way in which she reacts to it that indicates some pretty intense pleasure. She'll use her sex appeal to trick guys into helping her get what she wants, but what she wants isn't the guys she's tricking. It's a great role for Scott, she vamps it up in a big way but really makes it work.
The rest of the cast are good here too. Dan Duryea is good as the thug in question. He looks the part and has quite obviously got a thing for Jane. If he falls for her almost too easily, well, he comes across as easy to manipulate rather than a particularly strong willed individual. Don Defore and Arthur Kennedy also do fine work in their respective roles, with Kristine Miller holds her own as Kathy, a woman clearly far more in tune with what Jane is up to than any of the male characters in the picture.
Byron Haskin, who would later go on to direct War Of The Worlds and Robinson Crusoe On Mars shows quite a bit of control over the film. He gets good performances from his cast and makes the most of some fine cinematography. The score isn't as tense or memorable here as maybe it could have been but it works. The script, written by Roy Huggins, who would later become a very prolific TV writer and in the sixties create The Fugitive, is also very strong.The Blu-ray:
Too Late For Tears arrives on Blu-ray from Flicker Alley in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taken from a restoration down by UCLA. Like Woman On The Run (also available from Flicker Alley) the picture fell into the public domain and previous versions, the easiest one to find being the DVD release from Alpha Video, have been in very poor shape. According to Flicker Alley, the film has been "restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, and passionately championed by the Film Noir Foundation, with special thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association" and was "transferred from a 35mm print."
Although there are noticeable instances of print damage evident throughout the movie, again Flicker Alley give noir fans a pretty substantial upgrade over what we've seen in the past. Detail is pretty strong here and there's plenty of texture and good depth too. Small scratches and occasionally larger ones show up but it's not a massive distraction or anything. The transfer is very film like, the picture has plenty of grain and no obvious noise reduction. As such, we get good depth and texture here as well. Edge enhancement and compression artifacts are never a problem. Contrast also looks good, we get nice blacks, clean whites and a good gray scale in between. This is a solid restoration indeed, much cleaner with far more to appreciate than what we've seen on older DVD releases.Sound:
The English language LPCM Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds quite strong here and helps to really ramp up the tension in the last twenty minutes or so. The dialogue stays crisp and clear, it's never a problem understanding any of the characters. There's a little bit of hiss here and there but odds are pretty good that if you're not specifically listening for it you won't really notice it. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.Extras:
Extras start off with an audio commentary track from writer, film historian, and film programmer Alan K. Rode, the man behind the interesting One Way Street blog. He's done commentary tracks in the past, The Prowler comes to mind, and he not only knows what he's talking about but how to deliver it in an interesting and listenable manner. As such, his comments on Too Late For Tears are worth taking the time to appreciate. He covers pretty much all the bases here, providing some welcome background information on the director, the key cast members, some of the crew that worked in the film, the locations that pop up in it, the origins of the story and quite a bit more. It's well paced and packed full of good information on the movie and the people who made it.
There are also two featurettes here, the first of which is the sixteen minute Chance Of A Lifetime: The Making Of Too Late For Tears which was produced by Steven Smith and the Film Noir Foundation and which features input from film historians Eddie Muller, Kim Morgan, and Julie Kirgo. This compliments the commentary nicely, providing some background information on the film as well as some critical insight into what makes the picture work as well as it does. The second featurette is Tiger Hunt: Restoring Too Late For Tears, again produced by Smith and the Film Noir Foundation. This four and a half minute long piece focuses on the five year job that was bringing this film to its present restored condition.
Included inside the clear plastic keepcase along with the Blu-ray disc is a DVD version of the movie and a twenty-four page insert booklet that contains an essay on the picture from Bright Light as well as a plethora of great archival stills and artwork.
Too Late For Tears is nothing if not efficient! Lizabeth Scott really shines here, a consummate femme fatale, but the rest of the cast hold their own. The direction is tight, the pacing is quick and the story is tense. This works and it works well. The Blu-ray release from Flicker Alley blows past DVD releases out of the water with a nice restored transfer and a very good selection of interesting and well put together supplements. Highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.