“Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart.”
From the opening scene of the silhouette of a car speeding up a winding road on a hill outside LA one dark night, you know you are in noir territory. Soon a preposterous chance event launches a wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as perverse and relentless as fate itself.
Too Late for Tears is the quintessential 40s b-picture from the obscure poverty-row studio, Hunt Stromberg Productions. A crew led by pulp director Byron Haskin has filmed a purple script from Roy Huggins (The Fugitive TV series), which has the two accomplished leads Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea as reluctant partners in locating the claim check for a suitcase containing a hot 60 grand. The husky-voiced Scott is perfect as the housewife with attitude and a gun, and Duryea relishes his established persona of the low-life chiseler making a grab for the big-time. This movie is as hard as nails. There is not an ounce of pathos or softness, just a corrosive unbending greed against which anyone is expendable.
The noir denouement elegantly occurs in a luxury hotel suite south of the border, where the femme-fatale imagines she is home free. Hoskin’s mise-en-scene is brilliant. The loot grabbed from a suit-case clutched madly in Scott’s hands and begged at her pursuer is ultimately worthless, and her fate is sealed by that same suit-case. A fluttering of notes down onto the hotel’s driveway is her final epitaph.
Sadly, there is no decent print of this movie currently available. Don’t buy the current DVDs – they are straight transfers of a scratchy damaged print of a public domain print available free from www.archive.org. Though there is a commentary from Eddie Muller on the DVD – I trust the proceeds are going to locating and restoring a better print.