Passed. But that being said, it's a movie NAMED Gun Crazy. Both of those words in isolation are problematic. Together, I mean...watch out. There's some theft, juvenile delinquency, high speed chases, peril, and straight up murder this movie. Some innocent people just get point blank shot. Admittedly, it's 1950. The concept of skull shrapnel isn't a thing and, by today's standards, the violence is remarkably tame. But there's all kinds of gun craziness contained in an hour and twenty-seven minute movie. But who am I to deny the value of Gun Crazy. It passed!
DIRECTOR: Joseph H. Lewis
Status: Still in Facebook jail. I managed to make a makeshift shiv out of memes and anti-vaxxer propaganda. I don't know if I'll ever see the light of day. I write to maintain my sanity. But how can someone keep their sanity when everything is so...Gun Crazy? Gun Crazy wasn't originally a lock on the syllabus. It was up to a pair of students to choose which movie in the pile was going to be the next film assignment. Let's be honest, I was really jazzed that they picked this one because it sounded the most bonkers out of the group. Yep, even more bonkers than the absolutely insane D.O.A. But with all this being said, I really want to establish my personal politics because I'm going to be talking a lot about guns in a movie entitled Gun Crazy. I'm a pretty intense pacifist. If I can get through this life without ever having to cause another person harm, that means I've won. I'm pretty anti-gun. I have fired weapons, but really find no joy in it. If you confront me on my gun politics, I will get mad and then I'll get depressed because I think that the world is a terrible place. There. It's all laid out for you. Don't be surprised if I go anti-gun later.
Gun Crazy might be one of the dumber movies that I really like. Listen, I came out swinging and that's a pretty big step for a pacifist. I know. It's easy to call something dumb. I'm sure that one could defend the genius of this movie, but it's pretty dumb. Title wise, you can't really sever the ties between Gun Crazy and Reefer Madness. They both kind of have the same purpose. They're morality tales that actually are far more interesting as entertainment than steering people away from lives of crime. With Gun Crazy, the first ten minutes establishes a very different film than the rest of the movie. The conceit of the film is that the protagonist has ze goon kraziness [I refuse to give you more insight into that spelling] He can't help it. (I really want to break that down later and criticize the whole 1950s for their heteronormativity). He just needs guns. As such, he gets really good at using guns.
Now, what I find interesting is that the character really doesn't want to kill. After killing a baby chick --which by-the-bye, has to be a real baby chick because that's how things were done back then --he vows never to kill a living creature again with his sweet shooting skills. I mean, this guy is a crack shot. He can hit anything anywhere anytime. He's very good. That's a cool character choice because the beginning reads like NRA propaganda. (It's not. It's a complete misdirect. It doesn't mean that I wasn't uncomfortable for the whole beginning of the movie.) So his trajectory is that he becomes this professional crack shot. Surely, that will matter in the story later on, right? Nope. The boy grows up, becomes a sideshow act for his amazing gun skills and those gun skills are used precisely once. When Bart goes on a crime spree, he uses that marksmanship to shoot out a tire just once in the entire movie. The first ten minutes shows him doing all of this insane gunplay, but he never uses it once the inciting incident happens. It's bonkers. Why have all of this setup? I'm really playing devil's advocate here, but is it to show that even the most knowledgable gun owner will go off the rails and enter a life of crime. (Please note: despite my very anti-gun stance, I do not believe this and cannot believe that people would believe this.)
Most of what I'm going to talk about is the first ten minutes because I...I just can't. It's so much. Like, it's Mystery Science Theater much. The rest of the film is a completely watchable interesting film noir, but the tone and the logic of the first ten minutes is mind blowing. The movie's opening is that Bart, as a teenager, throws a brick through a hardware store window to steal a revolver. We get an understanding of why Bart NEEDED this gun from the store window through the testimony of his sister. I wonder if the movie is commenting on the fact that a boy needs a father to be raised with a sense of absolute right and wrong, but we'll move beyond that. He kills the chick as a child, like I said. He avoids killing a mountain lion despite the fact that it is probably going to kill some poor picnicker down the way somewhere. But the biggest insane moment is the fact that Bart loses is initial sidearm because he was showing it to everyone at school.
I'm going to step back and acknowledge that I'm putting 21st Century progressive morality over 1950s conservative America. It's really unfair. Bart lived in a time where a rural school would be a place where a gun wouldn't set off the alarms it does today. But there's this shot...oh this shot! There's a shot of Bart completely surrounded by young school children as he pantomimes firing the gun like the Lone Ranger or something. It's too much. Like, my brain can't handle it. He gets his gun taken away as a low-key punishment. It's the equivalent of me catching a student with a cell phone in my class. So his brain goes into theft mode immediately. He's so driven by the need to continually possess a firearm that he HAS to break into a hardware store. And the nutty part is that is Bart's pretty much only defense. It wasn't his fault, according to his family, because he had his gun taken away. I mean, thank God that the judge thought that argument was nonsense, but it's still insane.
But this isn't even the most crazy scene in the movie...
I try to keep this page FREE OF ABUSE AND VULGARITY (despite what an anonymous Facebook user submitted), so I can't tell you about the Behind the Scenes of this moment. I encourage you to Google "Joseph H. Lewis Gun Crazy" and find his direction for actor John Dall with the scene I'm about to talk about. When Bart gets out of reform school, he goes to the carnival and is really turned on to a marksmanship exhibit. I don't know why I called it that. It's trick shooting. Peggy Cummins plays femme fatale Annie Starr, who is also a crackshot like Bart. He instantly falls in lust and competes against her trick-shottery. Now, the game isn't target practice. Each person takes a turn wearing a crown with candles. The goal is to SHOOT THE FLAMES OF THE CANDLES OUT without ruining the candle and / or MURDERING THE OTHER PERSON. Now, suspension of disbelief says that Bart could let Annie shoot at him. After all, she is a pro. We see this stuff in magic tricks all the time. But the thing that I can't wrap my head around, no matter how much I lie to myself, is the fact that ANNIE ALLOWS BART TO SHOOT AT HER. Remember, from her perspective, he's a random audience member trying to make $50 bucks. We know nothing about his skills. More than likely, he's not as good a shot as her, let alone better. Yet, this stranger fires at an expert with the assumption that he won't kill her.
This entire article is just therapy! I could talk about the feminization of the male protagonist. I could talk about toxic relationships. I could break down the femme fatale. But I won't. Nah, I only care about the absolutely insane first ten minutes of the movie and how it fits, in no way, with the rest of the film. My recommendation: prep for a hilarious first ten minutes and then settle in for a pretty fun Bonnie and Clyde style crime spree that's pretty entertaining.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.