gun-crazy-oct-13thThe plot may remind you of Bonnie and Clyde, with its sequence of raids and escapes: “a magnificently enjoyable film, distinguished by Joseph H Lewis’s restless, catch-all directorial style; visually, the film ranges from classic gritty noir to hyperstylised modern gothic, to a startling single-take hold-up sequence shot on crowded streets… A genuine treat” – Tom Huddleston, Time Out. Selected by the Library of Congress for the US National Film Registry in 1998. (Cert PG)
Dir: Joseph H Lewis 87 mins USA 1950

Programme Notes

USA 1949 87 minutes Cert. PG

The French film director, Jean-Luc Godard, has been quoted as saying “all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” That can certainly be the case for several successful films from the past three decades, including The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the Alien and Resident Evil film series. But when Gun Crazy came out in 1949, this B-movie film noir presented a dominant femme fatale when other mainstream film noirs from the decade had a strong male role behind the weapon (The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, and The Maltese Falcon, for example). Even its iconic film poster – voted one of “The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever” by Premiere magazine – shows the girl with the gun.

Gun Crazy focuses on Bart Tare, played by John Dall (Spartacus (1960), Rope), who has had a fascination with guns ever since he was a child. After leaving the Army, Bart ends up going to a carnival, which features a gun-toting sideshow performer called Annie, played by Welsh actress Peggy Cummins (Night of the Demon). With a common interest in guns, the two end up falling in love. However, because of financial hardships, Annie descends into performing robberies, with Bart tagging along for the ride.

One of the robberies which made the film famous was a bank heist that was filmed entirely in one take. Keep an eye out for the ‘extras’ outside the bank, who were real passers-by – only the actors and film crew knew what was happening in the shot. Whilst the characters Annie and Bart were inspired by the infamous gangster duo Bonnie and Clyde, the film’s factory robbery is said to have been influenced by a 1938 hold-up of a Coca Cola factory by a former associate of Bonny and Clyde, Floyd Hamilton, and Huron “Terrible Ted” Walters.

Gun Crazy, known as Deadly is the Female on its initial release in the UK, is now considered a quintessential American film noir after being rediscovered in the Hollywood and Paris film circuits in the 1970s. It was an influential film for such directors as Godard (Breathless) and Truffaut (his Mississippi Mermaid also features a long take).

Annie Laurie Starr – Peggy Cummins
Barton Tare – John Dall
Packett – Berry Kroeger
Judge Willoughby – Morris Carnovsky
Ruby Tare Flagler – Anabel Shaw
Deputy Clyde Boston – Harry Lewis

Director – Joseph H Lewis
Screenplay – MacKinlay Kantor, Millard Kaufman (‘fronting’ for blacklisted Dalton Trumbo)
Cinematography – Russell Harlan
Original Music – Victor Young
Producers Frank King; Maurice King

“It’s interesting to see this sort of film before Bonnie and Clyde came along and the criminal duo on the run became a massive subgenre of crime films. Here, they are a far cry from the more modern conception of the criminal couple.  They’re far more dark, human and realistic…” James Blake Ewing, Cinema Sights

“…Joseph H. Lewis uses a startling immediacy not found in any other films at the time. It’s the kind of energy that only cropped up a decade later in the French New Wave films.” Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid


“That was one predictably perfect crime thriller. The script spoke volumes in terms of [USA] gun culture and violence, as well as the Freudian metaphors. This was no B-movie – this was a freakin’ A-movie!”

“Excellent, especially the ending – which wasn’t a bloodbath.”

“Exciting and fast paced – a good forerunner to Bonnie and Clyde. He was a killer after all!”

“Very convincing – excellent depiction of tension”

“Fun good crazy”

“Great fun! Slightly wooden script in a few places. Volume a bit louder [higher] next time, please. Thank you.”

“Enjoyable but predictable”

“They don’t make films like this any more.”

“Great period piece – before the days of two-handed gun slinging, or after perhaps.”

“Dated. Probably good for the period and I can see how it [might have been] a seminal film for later thrillers.”

“Amazing how all the American clichés [were] performed with absolute conviction.”

“Long and [with] too many facial close-ups – but B &W films are truly amazing!”

“Nice photography”

“Brilliantly made but the psychology was pathetic, the given motivation lacking any credibility.”

“Enjoyable hokum. A well-made film but [with] a trite theme, possibly inspired by Bonnie and Clyde. Worth reviving.”

“Very static start but then good dynamics; very Bonnie and Clyde-like, obviously an influence. Great rain, snow, mist. The fair was better than the ones in Abingdon!”

“Some of the sets creaked a bit but the action [was] otherwise well managed.”

“Took one back to an era of rather poor USA films [although] this one was probably better than most.”

“Good tension in parts but not really believable – overlong.”

“Not bad. A bit slow and lacking in story.”

“Unappealing main characters – rather boring film!”

“Difficult to comment on a film so old.”

“I couldn’t help but notice the strong resemblance between Peggy Cummins and a young Margaret Thatcher – I wonder if they were related. The swamp finale was very effective!”

“Didn’t she have an awful lot of outfits for a girl on the run! Good for its age.”

“It should be noted that thre ‘bad’ girl was English and she led the ‘good’ American guy into crime and murder.”

“Couldn’t wait for it to end.”

“I’d cheerfully shoot whomever wrote that lame dialogue!”


A:11, B:13, C:18, D:3, E:0 to give 68%