Monday, April 7, 2008

Movie Recommendation: Track of the Cat

Track of the Cat (William Wellman, 1954)

The movie is, rightly, known for its striking design: Wellman shot on color film, but the set design and choice of locations emphasizes blacks, whites, a greys, making the few bold colors - like Robert Mitchum's red wool coat - pop out at you. (It's a kind of an analog version of some of the color effects in the the adaptation of Sin City). The exterior of the ranch - built on a soundstage and seen through an fx-created snowfall - has a haunting, otherworldly quality.

That said, the movie has a number of other strengths: a screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides from Walter Van Tilburg Clark's novel that at time seems to anticipate the style and tone - not to mention the dysfunctional families - of Sam Sheperd's Buried Child and True West; a strong lead performance by Robert Mitchum that makes the most of Bezzerides's off-kilter dialogue; fine supporting performances from Teresa Wright, Beulah Bondi, Philip Tonge, and Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer; a pretty great gag involving an alcoholic's hidden stash(es); and some tense, Val Lewton-like, action scenes.

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