Frank Tuttle (director)
81 min (length)
14 September 2020 (released)
This Graham Greene adaptation from 1942 was directed by Frank Tuttle and boasts almost iconic performances from Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd… As a result, THIS GUN FOR HIRE turned out to be one of the most influential films of the Noir genre.
When chemist cum blackmailer Albert Baker and his female assistant are shot by professional hitman Philip Raven (A. Ladd) it quickly transpires that the reason behind the assassination is a secret formula for a poison gas that is to be sold to the Japanese for lots of money. The mastermind behind the crime is Williard Gates (Laird Cregar), manager of the Nitro Chemical Corporation. After the bloody deed is carried out the double-crossing Gates pays Raven with marked banknotes which he then reports to the local police as ‘stolen’ from his company.
While investigating detective Michael Crane (Robert Preston) is being led a merry dance by Gates, the corrupt business man has his dirty hands in many pots it would seem – including the running of several nightclubs. Enter attractive chanteuse Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) who promplty gets hired by Gates after an audition. What he doesn't know is that Ellen is Detective Crane's girlfriend. In turn, Crane has absolutely no idea that his girlfriend is secretly working for the government ... and Senator Burnett instructs the smart blonde to start her own investigations against Gates and his company. However, in order to do so, she must accept Gates' offer to perform in his club. When she boards the train to LA she is unaware that Gates is in another carriage… likewise he has no idea that Ellen is on the same train.
But a film noir wouldn’t be a film noir if coincidences didn’t pile up fast and quick and yep – our hitman Raven also boards said train and sits down next to Ellen as it is the only free seat! After a brief conversation it dawns on her that he is the wanted man because of his deformed wrist. When Gates walks across the carriage and spots both Ellen and Raven asleep in their seats he phones the police, fully aware that Raven is after him because of the marked banknotes. Alarmed by the police presence at the station and rightly convinced that the cops are waiting for him, Raven forces Ellen at gunpoint to pose as a couple as they leave the train – he then walks her to a desolate spot near the station with the intend of killing her but is interrupted by workmen. This gives Ellen a chance to flee but not for long because now Gates – alarmed to have spotted Ellen and Raven together on the train and by now furthermore aware that she is Crane’s gal, also has his reason to get rid of her. Soon, all the main characters find themselves hunted for various reasons and Ellen’s and Raven’s path cross again... leading up to a tense finale.
Veronica Lake is extremely convincing as a conjuring night club singer whose sharp mind saves her life more than once while Alan Ladd is near perfect as the ice-cold killer who detests humans but loves cats… and yet is forced to kill one when the animal’s meowing almost gives his hiding place away. Equally impressive is Laird Gregar as the scheming company/nightclub owner Gates. Of course, Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd were reunited for several more film noir classics, most notably The Blue Dahlia (1946).
Bonus material of this 4K restored Blu-ray release contains Audio Commentary, Trailer, Collector's booklet and two radio play adaptations of ‘This Gun…’ for the Lux Radio Theater with Alan Ladd, Veronika Lake and Joan Blondell.