The Chase

The Chase

Film noir has been so thoroughly fussed over and theorized and fetishized and trumpeted since it was first classified and named back in the 70s that it has now become a brand name. It’s interesting to give the films a fresh look and consider their most outlandish aspects—labyrinthine narratives, wildly eccentric and impulsive characters popping up around every corner, unreliable narrators, resurrections from the dead and soul-searing betrayals. The mixture of resignation, confusion, wild romantic longing, punishing cruelty and sheer craziness really does stop you in your tracks. The titles made in the years just after the war are the most moving, and they now seem directly tied to films about returning WWII vets like The Best Years of Our Lives, Till the End of Time and From This Day Forward—the same bottled-up emotions expressed by different means.

Amnesia, recurring dreams and drug-induced delirium are the narrative convolutions that create fractured landscapes of the mind, often enhanced by filmmakers and actors who were electrified by the challenge. And the challenge is even greater when the source material is from Cornell Woolrich. Woolrich, who also wrote under the pen name William Irish, was prolific. He was also variable. To take one example, his 1940 novel The Bride Wore Black ends with a truly inane “plot twist,” thrown out by François Truffaut in his 1968 adaptation. But he was also inventive, and his novels and short stories were the basis of some of the greatest films of the 40s and 50s, including The Leopard Man, Phantom Lady, Rear Window and The Chase, Arthur Ripley’s 1946 adaptation of The Black Path of Fear. For years, The Chase was only available in some of the worst and most dispiriting transfers I’ve ever seen, and I was thrilled when Bertrand Tavernier told me he’d heard the negative existed in a European archive and overjoyed when the film was actually restored by UCLA with funding from The Film Foundation and the Franco-American Cultural Fund. I wouldn’t dream of giving away too much of the plot. Suffice to say that the film begins with a troubled, penniless vet (Robert Cummings) on the streets of Miami who picks up a wallet on the street and returns it to its rightful owner, a gangster (Steve Cochran) who lives with his beautiful kept wife (Michèle Morgan) in a gaudy mansion filled with “classical” statues, and who decides to give the vet a job as his chauffeur—over the objections of his unimpressed henchman (Peter Lorre)—and test him out with a ride in his specially designed limo in which he can gun the speed from the back. Ripley (who started as a gagman for Mack Sennett, and whose independently made Voice in the Wind was also restored by UCLA with the help of TFF), along with DP Franz Planer, Art Director Robert Usher, writer Philip Yordan and producer Seymour Nebenzal, created an exquisite nightmare that becomes more baroque and uncanny as it unfolds—small wonder that The Chase is a favorite of Guy Maddin. And at the heart of the film is the deep yearning of Cummings’ Scottie to be whole and at peace with himself.

- Kent Jones, NOTES ON FILM & RESTORATION, 02/17/2021


THE CHASE (1946, d. Arthur D. Ripley) was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, with funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a unique partnership between the Directors Guild of America (DGA); the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA); the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique (SACEM); and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).