Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy

4.0 1
Director: Joseph H. Lewis

Cast: Joseph H. Lewis, Peggy Cummins, John Dall, Berry Kroeger


Joseph H. Lewis' Gun Crazy (1949) never made it to laserdisc, despite being in sufficient demand theatrically so that its distributor had to keep a 35 mm print available, but it has made it to DVD in very good edition. The movie looks excellent, about a match to the best 35 mm. What makes it special, however, is the lively commentary track by Glenn Erickson; he…  See more details below


Joseph H. Lewis' Gun Crazy (1949) never made it to laserdisc, despite being in sufficient demand theatrically so that its distributor had to keep a 35 mm print available, but it has made it to DVD in very good edition. The movie looks excellent, about a match to the best 35 mm. What makes it special, however, is the lively commentary track by Glenn Erickson; he jumps all over the place, occasionally to his detriment, but usually to our benefit, bounding between the original short story, the opening section of the movie with its two flashbacks, the cast members, the director's background, and the stylistic characteristics of film noir. He gives an excellent account of the movie's subtext, which evidently slipped right past the Production Code office's censors, and he enjoys delving into the careers of the supporting actors, such as Berry Kroeger and Stanley Prager. Erickson's commentary might have used a little editing; once or twice he tries to anticipate a flawed scene or two later on without giving us sufficient warning, which tends to be distracting. Similarly, his attempt to equate the levels of violence and the sensibilities of audiences in 1950 with audiences in the 1990s, and specifically films such as Terminator 2, seems forced. On the other hand, when he uses one scene as a jumping off point for a broader discussion of film noir's cosmic angst, he's dead on target. And Erickson weaves a brilliant account of the tangled writing credits on the movie, though he misses the irony of original story author MacKinlay Kantor, who was a hardcore right-winger, whereas blacklistee Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay. When Erickson tells us of character actor Ray Teal's career, he also neglects to mention Teal's longest acting assignment in a string of lawmen, honest or corrupt, on Bonanza, as the sheriff of Virginia City. Still, Erickson's track is always engaging and engrossing, almost as much as the movie, and he is better than many other such commentators. Beyond that, the 87-minute movie has been given an extremely generous and well-placed 25 chapters, and a very clean audio transfer, although the volume is slightly low, but that shortcoming can be compensated for very easily. There is no trailer or other bonus visual material, but the commentary track is so much fun that this DVD would be worth owning even if the movie didn't look half as good as it does. The disc opens automatically on a simple but clever menu that includes options of English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
While often compared to Bonnie and Clyde, which it preceded by nearly 20 years, Gun Crazy is in many ways a more daring and disturbing film; while the leads lack the skill and charisma of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and the picture is sometimes betrayed by its obvious low budget, director Joseph H. Lewis gives his story a subversive sexual economy that's more provocative than that of Arthur Penn's later (and bolder) variation, and his bluntly energetic and inventive visual storytelling helped make Gun Crazy one of the most fabled low-budget crime pictures of the 1940s. The doomed romance between weak-willed sharpshooter Bart Tare (John Dall), who loves guns but lacks the courage to kill, and Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), who is the aggressor in the relationship but can't shoot with the same grace and elan as Bart, can be read on several different levels, none of them especially healthy. While the film satisfied the edicts of 1940s film censorship, lust has rarely seemed more vivid than between Bart and Annie; their relationship is based less on love than on pure animal instinct, and Lewis makes it seem both compelling and unwholesome. Within moments of meeting each other, Bart and Annie seem bound for life and on the fast track to damnation, with no repentance possible or requested; Jim Thompson never imagined a couple as doomed and damaged as these two. And Lewis takes visual chances that one would hardly expect from a 1940s B-movie -- especially the justifiably famous robbery sequence, shot in one take from the back seat of a car -- giving the picture an inventive style that makes the material all the more effective. If Gun Crazy's ambitions sometimes outstrip its means, Lewis got enough of his ideas on the screen to make this one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking crime films of its era.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by author/film noir specialist Glenn Erickson; Subtitles: English, Français & Español

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peggy Cummins Annie Laurie Starr
John Dall Bart Tare
Berry Kroeger Packett
Morris Carnovsky Judge Willoughby
Anabel Shaw Ruby Tare
Russ Tamblyn Bart Tare: younger
Harry Lewis Clyde Boston
Ned Young Dave Allister
Trevor Bardette Sheriff Boston
Mickey Little Bart Tare as Child
David Bair Dave Allister, Age 14
Stanley Prager Bluey-Bluey
Virginia Farmer Miss Wynn
Anne O'Neal Miss Sifert
Don Beddoe Man From Chicago
Robert Osterloh Hampton Policeman
Shimen Ruskin Taxi Driver
Harry Hayden Mr. Mallenberg

Technical Credits
Joseph H. Lewis Director
Raymond Boltz Set Decoration/Design
Sidney B. Cutner Musical Direction/Supervision
Harry Gerstad Editor
Russell Harlan Cinematographer
MacKinlay Kantor Screenwriter
Millard Kaufman Screenwriter
Frank King Producer
Maurice King Producer
Tom Lambert Sound/Sound Designer
Norma Costumes/Costume Designer
Leo Shuken Musical Direction/Supervision
Dalton Trumbo Screenwriter
Gordon Wiles Production Designer
Victor Young Score Composer

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Gun Crazy
1. Credits [1:18]
2. Live Target [3:13]
3. Just Gotta Have One [6:06]
4. Homecoming [3:07]
5. Annie Laurie Starr [2:28]
6. Fire With Fire [4:36]
7. Claims on Her [3:29]
8. What They Want [4:21]
9. Her Idea of Living [4:45]
10. Stickup Montage [1:50]
11. Bank Holdup [3:52]
12. Police Pursuits [4:24]
13. The Only Real Thing [1:42]
14. One Last Job [3:23]
15. Heist Day [3:23]
16. The Getaway [4:10]
17. Dragnet [2:46]
18. We Go Together [3:27]
19. Last Dance [3:59]
20. Homeward Bound [4:03]
21. Old Friends [4:21]
22. Into the Mountains [3:10]
23. Fleeing on Foot [2:54]
24. So Close [2:27]
25. Mist Menaces [3:35]

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Gun Crazy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sigmund Freud would have a field day with Bart Tare (John Dall), the gun crazy marksman who just can¿t live without always having a firearm in his possession. Feeling more than a little inadequate, shall we say, Bart soon teams up with Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) a woman he meets at a carnival for who the moniker ¿ girls gone wild ¿ must have been invented. Basically, Laurie¿s pure poison, a sugar coated heartless killer consumed by her obsession to be rich. Naturally, the chemistry between these two ne¿er-do-wells is immediate and deadly; Laurie¿s high life fueling both their rabid passions for each other and a life of crime. In 'Gun Crazy' Bart is a pre-teen reprobate who, after a stint in reform school and the army, returns home without much concern or interest in anything other than a life of crime. It isn¿t that Bart goes looking for trouble ¿ only that the excitement of getting into some is very compelling. The film is one of those cautionary tales that attempts to chart what happens to individuals to whom life does not follow the straight and narrow trajectory. Gun Crazy is a superb example of the must-see, raw B-flick. It sparkles with sordid raunchy performances that, quite frankly, are refreshing in light of the usual antiseptic film output one has come to expect from ¿the golden age¿ of Hollywood. In keeping with Warner¿s current trend to not really do all that is required to completely remaster classic movies for DVD, this film is just average. The gray scale is nicely balanced with deep solid blacks but the whites are not very clean. There¿s a considerable amount of film grain and a lot of age related artifacts for a visual presentation that, while a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes, is still below par for what might have been if more digital wizardry had been applied. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice slight pops and some hiss but nothing that will distract. There¿s a fairly interesting audio commentary by Glenn Erickson that will most surely enhance your appreciation for this film. All in all, a good disc to add to your library of classic cinema.