The 18th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1946’s The Chase, which turned out to be a pretty nifty little film noir. Did I actually just use the word nifty in a film review? Yes, I did but then again, everyone should use the word “nifty” at least once in their lives.
The Chase tells the story of Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings), whose life is anything but nifty. When we first meet him, he’s standing outside in the rain, staring into a restaurant, and enviously watching the people eating inside. Chuck is a returning serviceman. He helped to win World War II but he’s now returned to a society that has changed in his absence. He has no money, he has no home, and he suffers from what we would today call PTSD.
Things change for Chuck when he finds the wallet of a man named Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran). He returns the wallet, discovering that Eddie not only lives in a mansion but he also has a sinister henchman named Gino (Peter Lorre!). Eddie is so impressed that Chuck returned the wallet and didn’t try to steal any of the money that he offers to put Chuck on the payroll.
Soon, he is working as Eddie’s driver. Of course, Eddie has an accelerator installed in the backseat, so that he can control how fast the car is going. Eddie enjoys freaking Chuck out by randomly speeding up the car. Along with being a spectacularly bad passenger, Eddie also turns out to be a gangster.
When Chuck meets the mysterious Lorna (Michele Morgan), it’s love at first sight but there’s a big problem. Lorna happens to be married … to Eddie! Chuck and Lorna flee to Cuba, with Eddie and Gino in pursuit…
Or do they?
Chuck, it turns out, has been suffering from nightmares since he returned from the war. Often times, he wakes up with amnesia. Are Eddie, Gino, and Lorna real or are they just figments of Chuck’s dream state? Is Chuck really living in a film noir or is he just dreaming that he is?
The Chase is an effectively dark little film noir, one that will keep you guessing. Steve Cochran appears to be having a lot of fun as the cheerfully sociopathic Eddie (and it’s interesting to note that, in the same year as The Chase, Cochran had a supporting role in another film about the struggles of returning servicemen, the Oscar-winning Best Years Of Our Lives) and, of course, Peter Lorre is great as Gino. Michele Morgan is both sympathetic and enigmatic as Lorna and Robert Cummings does a good job of playing a man who is never quite sure whether he’s awake or he’s asleep.
The Chase is a classic mix of film noir and psychological melodrama. Watch it below!