The Story (continued)
Gun Crazy (1949)
Stranded and trapped in a coalshed, a "roost" during a winter snowstorm in Montana, Laurie looks out of a frosted window - two icy drip lines on the window below her eyes make her appear sad and teary. Guilt-ridden, Bart feels unwillingly corrupted by their 'occupation,' and realizes that they are now an outlaw-couple that cannot ask any outsiders for help. Although Laurie also admits that she's "had enough," she aggressively masterminds his cooperation for "one more job" - a perfectly-planned "big one" and further stirs his paranoia by suggesting that they split up afterwards to elude the police:
Bart: Didn't you ever think of this? Didn't it ever occur to you that once we started, we could never ask anybody for help no matter if we were dying, for the rest of our lives. We're all alone, always will be? Didn't you ever give it a thought?
Laurie: What's the matter, Bart?
Bart: That last job. That car full of cops. I was scared.
Laurie: But we're safe now, darling.
Bart: Laurie, listen to me, listen close. Something happened when I was scared. All the time I was shooting that tire, I kept thinking how easy it would be to shoot the driver instead. I kept fighting myself. I'm not a killer. I don't want to be a killer. I don't like this kind of life. I've had enough.
Laurie: So have I, Bart.
Bart: Do you mean that?
Laurie: Of course. (He cradles her in his arms.)
Bart: Darling, we'll go away.
Bart: Out of the country, anywhere.
Laurie: What with?
Bart: I don't get you.
Laurie: It's cost us everything we've got to keep going so far. We're broke.
Bart: What are you trying to say?
Laurie: One more job.
Laurie: One more job, a big one.
Bart: No, I'm afraid.
Laurie: We'll plan it carefully. We'll take all the time and want to work it out. We'll be rich. Then we'll get out of the country. We'll be together. Always together.
Bart: No, I'm afraid.
Laurie: The last one.
Bart: Do you mean that?
Laurie: The last one.
Bart: All right, darling.
Laurie: Oh, Bart darling. We'll make it perfect. Then we will split up for a while.
Bart: Split up?
Laurie: Oh, we'll have to. With all the pictures in the newspapers. A man and a woman - that would make it too easy to spot us. What's the point of going and doing a good job if they catch us afterwards? We'll even have two getaway cars. That'll double our chances all the way down the line.
Bart: Laurie? How long?
Laurie: Oh, maybe two months, three. We'll meet someplace, Miami or New Orleans.
Bart: Two months.
Laurie: It's better than three years in jail, in separate cells. Oh Bart, we'll grow old together.
[Time has passed, and both Bart and Laurie are employed in the Armour meat-packing plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bart as a delivery truck driver and Laurie as a payroll office worker. Their subversive strategy is to infiltrate like a Trojan Horse in order to learn how to fraudulently steal from the capitalistic enterprise's payroll office.] In an overhead shot in their dark apartment [making the film audience willful accomplices] next to an ashtray filled with cigarette butts, he sketches/scribbles the floor layout of the plant on the front page of the Albuquerque Star newspaper, including a careful, step-by-step run through of their third major heist: "We've got exactly six minutes to do the job and get out." As planned earlier, they will end up in two different cars driving in opposite directions.
During his daily work routine, Bart is upbeat, but his co-worker interprets typical married life as bleak and costly:
Co-worker: How ya doing?
Bart: Getting rich.
Co-worker: You'll never get rich around here.
Bart: Oh, I don't know. I've got a girlfriend who works in the front office. Between us, we might get a lot of dough out of this place.
Co-worker: Don't fall for that. Do you know how much it costs for two to live? Just twice as much as for one.
In her office work area, Laurie is reprimanded by her stern-faced, frumpy boss Miss Sifert (Anne O'Neal) for breaking the unspoken feminine dress code of wearing pants - for being too masculine and assertive:
Miss Sifert: May I ask why you're wearing slacks?
Laurie: That's all I had today. My dry cleaning didn't come back.
Miss Sifert: I'll expect you tomorrow in a skirt.
To begin the risky robbery, Bart walks through the plant, laying out the topography of the place with his progress. In the lower level of the plant, he passes rows of hanging, inert skeletal carcasses, while carrying a bundle of wrapped steaks. To reach the white-collar level where the payroll office, safe and top management reside, he climbs stairs, cleverly deflecting the security guard's questions with the excuse that he is delivering steaks for the management's barbecue. In the inner sanctum of the payroll office, he and Laurie stick-up the employees and fill their bags with dough. As they flee, Miss Sifert activates the noisy burglar alarm - Laurie kills her. They rush out of the office, frantically retracing Bart's path down the stairs and into the dark warehouse past endless rows of slabs of meat hanging lifelessly. Laurie slips during the rapid exit - this is the first of other major stumbles and falls for her - indicative of the couple's future demise. Outside after reaching their car, Bart questions his duplicitous girlfriend about the shooting. She reciprocates his lie from the previous robbery by telling him that she didn't kill anybody either:
Bart: What was that shooting you were doing in there?
Laurie: Just scaring them off.
Bart: Are you sure you didn't hit anybody?
Laurie: No, but I should have hit the old-biddy who set off the alarm.
The camera is again mounted above them in the back seat of their convertible - their car swings around in a blur as they duck to avoid gunshots. Laurie fires back and kills a policeman - her hair flailing around in the wind. They get away, but Laurie has killed two people. Outside of town, they reach a second car, planted there to afford them two separate getaway cars. They share a few inadequate words of goodbye:
Bart: Laurie, I, Wait, I, there are lots of things I meant to say - should have said them last night.
Laurie: Me too.
Bart: Be good.
Bart: So long, honey.
But they are irresistibly attracted to each other and cannot part to lead separate lives. They both start off in opposite directions in two convertible cars, but then each brake and impulsively glance back. Both simultaneously U-turn their cars around and meet in the middle of the two-lane road. Bart abruptly parks his car there, grabs his suitcase and coat, and throws them into the backseat of Laurie's car. Dramatically in the bright sunlight, they passionately hug, embrace, and kiss each other in her car - inseparable for life - as they drive off together. She finally confirms and reveals her true love for Bart - believing that living apart is inconceivable.
The manhunt for them intensifies - roadblocks, searches of out-of-state cars, checks of identification, and canvassing of tourist camps, hotels, and bus-stops are commenced. An all-points bulletin is issued: "They are dangerous and armed. Shoot to kill." The Daily Bugle headlines read: "DRAGNET COVERS STATE - Bandits Hold Up Payroll Office." The Daily Globe reads: "POLICE SEEKING PAYROLL KILLERS - Two Die in Packing Plant Holdup." The Post News reads: "BANDIT SUSPECTS ROUNDED UP - All Known Vagrants Are Picked Up." And The Evening Standard proclaims: "FBI ENTERS HUNT FOR PAYROLL BANDITS - Called Into Armour Packing Case."
At the California State Line Inspection Station where all cars are stopped, the couple assure the inspector (Ray Teal) that they aren't carrying "any fruits or vegetables." After a cursory look at the contents of their luggage, the aggravated agent is distracted by the honking, impatient occupant of the vehicle behind theirs, and lets them pass. The criminal heroes contemplate their short-term destination. [Laurie's British accent is made accountable because her father had a shooting gallery in Brighton]:
Bart: Get rid of the car in Pasadena. Get a taxi from there. Where'd you like to stop for a while?
Laurie: Near the ocean? When I was a kid, I used to live in Brighton. My father had a shooting gallery there. I love the sea.
Bart: Do you miss it?
Laurie: Uhm, hmm.
However, after they reach their ocean-side hotel room near Los Angeles, Bart is shocked when he reads the dreary newspaper headlines, harshly realizing his guilty role as partner of his murderous accomplice. Admitting her killer instinct, she offers to leave him for good - but they are nihilistically, self-destructively bonded together "like guns and ammunition go together":
Bart: I've just been reading a story about funerals.
Bart: The funeral of Miss Augustine Sifert, for twenty-three years office manager of the Armour Meat Packing Company, and William Bechtel, company guard, were killed last Friday when bandits made off with a company payroll. Well?
Bart: Two people dead, just so we can live without working. Why?! Why did you do it? Why do you have to murder people? Why can't you let them live?
Laurie: Because I had to. Because I was afraid. Because they would have killed you. Because you're the only thing I've got in the whole world. Because I love you.
Bart: We're killers.
Laurie: You're not. I am.
Bart: No, we both are. You go into a racket like this to get something at the point of a gun. You have to be ready to kill even before you start a job. I'm as guilty as you are. I've just let you do my killing for me.
Laurie: I might as well tell you, I've done it before. I killed a man in St. Louis too, with Packy. We were staking him up and I got scared and I killed him. It's always because I get scared. I get so scared I can't even think. I can just kill. I'll go away. I will. I promise I'll never bother you again.
Bart: Oh no, we tried that once, remember?
Laurie: Yes, but this time...
Bart: Oh no, we go together, Laurie. I don't know why, maybe like guns and ammunition go together.
Laurie: I'll do anything you want. Anything Bart, anything you say, anything.
Bart: We'll stay here for a few days. I'll figure out our next move.
An FBI communications on the teletype traces them to the "beach area" where they have been spending the marked, stolen money: "Twenty dollar bills deposited at Bay City Bank by merchants in beach area identified as those from Armour job...Post serial numbers these bills immediately at all business places - hotels - apartments in entire vicinity." With ominous signs that the law is closing in, Bart returns to their room after making a deal "to get us across the border into Mexico...tomorrow...You know what we're gonna do when we get to Mexico? Buy ourselves a nice ranch and settle down. Maybe even raise those kids we talked about once."
With hopes for their future, they plan one final romantic night together, prefaced with exciting kiddie entertainment: a speedy thrill ride down and up a roller coaster with Bart clutching onto Laurie, and a ride on fake horses that move up and down on a revolving carousel. As Bart purchases two dance tickets for the fair ground's dance hall and they join other loving dance couples, they are serenaded by the theme song: "Mad About You":
If you know all the dreams I had about you
Then you'd know that I've got it bad about you
Press your lips to my lips and hold me, dear
Hold me near, can't you see
I'm mad about you, dear
The crowd sees me out dancin'
Carefree and romancin'
Happy with my someone new
I'm laughing on the outside
Crying on the inside,
'Cause I'm still in love with you.
They see me night and daytime
Having such a gay time
They don't know what I've been through
I'm laughing on the outside
Crying on the inside,
'Cause I'm still in love with you.
Bart and Laurie are enchanted by each other ("laughing on the outside") and they profess to each other how much they are in love. But their destructive deeds ("crying on the inside") fatefully catch up with them and burst their loving, transcendent mood and false dreams of a future. When they momentarily step outdoors, they discover FBI authorities checking the hot currency Bart used to purchase their tickets - and their hotel room: "E series - the same as the one from the hotel." The two retrace their steps into the dance floor, now recast as fugitives, and dance furtively toward a back exit and a dark alley, where their desperate flight is captured on a reflected sheet of glass, and Laurie stumbles and drops her white fur/mink wrap (a symbol of the "things" she wants in life) onto a dirty, wet street. At gunpoint, they commandeer a taxi driver to get away - but where to?
- Mexico ("that takes money and it's all back in the hotel room")
- their hotel room ("that hotel's full of cops by now")
- transportation centers ("they'll have a highway blockade out in all directions - they'll be at the airport, railroad stations and bus depot")
Grim-faced and dishevelled, they travel in a freight-rail car to Cashville, Bart's home-town. In the dark, they creep up to Ruby's house and peer in the bright kitchen window, where they gaze in and see Bart's sister with her children. The shadow from the window frame vertically divides Laurie's emotionally-ambivalent face as she stares inside - emphasizing the two worlds on the inside and outside.
When they enter, Bart apologizes for having nowhere else to go and disgracing his sister's home: "Sorry we had to come like this, Ruby." Laurie enviously compliments Ruby on the domesticity of the home - revealing a longing and reality that she would never have for herself: "Gee, what cute kids." Ruby puts the children to bed and houses them for the night - her husband is away on a business trip in San Francisco. The next day, the contrast between the two hostile females [and their respective lifestyles] is clearly delineated: black party-dressed Laurie, still staring and suspicious, files her nails, while white-bloused, apron-clad Ruby cooks domestically at the stove: "There's a telephone here. I'm not taking any chances, not even with Bart's own sister."
In the Sheriff's office, Clyde (a sheriff) tells Dave (a reporter), Bart's childhood chums, that he suspects that their wanted friend has returned to his boyhood home, based on a hunch and information from Ruby's neighbor - their house is mysteriously darkened, secretive, and full of sickness: "...the shades next door are pulled down tight, and Ruby's told the neighborhood kids her children are sick and can't come out." After leaving his gun in his desk, at Dave's suggestion, they both drive over to the house in the Cashville News station wagon. Ruby denies tipping them off: "Why should I have done it? Why should I want to bring disgrace to my children any sooner than necessary?" Laurie is instructed to get in the car in the back and wait for him, while Bart speaks to his friends from the porch, with his gun pointed at the unarmed, relaxed men. Ultimately, Bart refuses to surrender and give himself up:
Bart: Too bad you guys have to come...(He lowers his gun.) Where are your guns?
Clyde: We're not carrying any guns.
Dave: Bart, this is our town. We don't want any shooting or anybody getting hurt.
Bart: Including me?
Dave: Including you.
Clyde: Bart, we've come to ask you and Laurie to give yourselves up. I think you know that I'll do everything I can to see that you get a fair break.
Bart: That's nice.
Dave: Don't force us to turn this into a manhunt, Bart, or a slaughter of some kind.
Bart: Too bad you guys had to come.
Dave: Bart, you know this country, these mountains as well as we do. You know you haven't a chance of beating the law out of here.
Clyde: The moment you go, we'll have to turn on the alarm. There won't be a road or even a path you can get through.
Bart: Well, nice seeing you both again.
Dave: So long, Bart.
Bart: So long.
Clyde: Be seeing you.
As Bart backs up into the doorway of the house, his head drops lower and lower in the frame. Again, he is pained and grabs his head, knowing that he and Laurie will soon be reported, with little chance of escape from his community. He rips the kitchen phone cords from the wall, and calls for Laurie, finding her with Ruby's baby in her arms and ruthlessly suggesting a kidnapping because they "won't dare shoot if we take the baby with us." Bart swiftly rejects the preposterous, radical idea and deposits the child in its playpen - the couple drive off into the San Lorenzo Mountains without a further word as cold-hearted Laurie blankly stares forward. Various camera angles emphasize the precarious climb and drive up the windy, perilous road, and huge close-ups of their tense faces (shot from a low-angle under the dashboard and steering wheel), as the man-hunt heats up and blockades are prepared: "There's no way they can get out unless they abandon car and make it on foot." They careen past a road crew and enter Madera National Park, where they drive through a fenced gate at the Ranger Station. They proceed through closed roads until their car breaks down.
The two abandon their automobile, panic and breathlessly run through the woods on foot, with Bart clutching Laurie's hand (and purse strap). Characteristically, Laurie stumbles and falls again and rapidly grows tired, but Bart propels them forward. They run down a narrow, ankle-deep stream into which Laurie trips headlong. By nightfall, they are exhausted and rest at the foot of a tree, fearfully listening to bloodhounds on their trail. Shortly afterwards, they stagger again - oxygen-deprived at high altitude, and Laurie's raging hostility boils to the surface:
Laurie: I can't, I can't get my breath.
Bart: Just a little farther.
Bart: Laurie, come on...
Laurie: (hysterically) Let them come - I kill them! I kill them!
Bart: (slapping her across the face) Stop that! Stop it! (They hug) Just a little farther. Then we can rest.
In the moonlight, they come to the edge of a marshy swamp, with towering reeds and chirping crickets. Finding themselves hunted, they slowly turn their heads back towards their invisible pursuers. After crossing another shallow pond, they collapse into each other's arms on the ground to rest and await dawn:
Laurie: Bart, I'm afraid.
Bart: You just rest. There's nothing we can do for a while.
Laurie: (snuggling) It's so good to be so close with you.
Bart: I used to go camping here when I was a kid, every summer, Dave and Clyde. I think we can find a way out - when it's daylight.
But by morning, a thick, hellish, shroud of fog blankets the area and traps them in the swamp - anticipating the final showdown. With the camera firmly positioned on their apprehensive faces and trying to define their shapes through the mist, they hear - through the smoky clouds - ominous footsteps and Clyde and Dave's voices announcing their approach. In their last few moments of life and knowing that they are surrounded, Bart faithfully declares his love for Laurie and gives her one final kiss:
Laurie: Bart, we're in real trouble this time.
Bart: Laurie, no matter what happens, I wouldn't have it any other way. (They kiss.)
Clyde: Bart, Bart, this is Clyde. We're coming in to get you, Dave and me. Answer us, Bart. You haven't got a chance. There are too many guns around this swamp.
Dave: Bart, this is Dave. We're comin' in, Bart. We know you won't kill us. You're not a killer, Bart.
Clyde: You might as well give up, Bart. It's all over. We're coming in, Bart.
Laurie: (rising with a crazed, psychotic, homicidal look in her eyes and pointing her gun) One more step and I'll kill you. I'll kill you. I'll kill you!
Bart: Laurie - don't!
Laurie: (shrieking defiantly) I'll kill you!
Bart: Laurie! (He shoots her.) Laurie!
In a mercy killing, Bart is compelled to shoot his insane, aggressive lover - the only murder he commits in the entire film, in an act that adopts her own violent modus operandi. By killing her partly out of love, he silences her lethal ability to kill any further, and protects the lives of boyhood pals. Mistakenly believing that Bart has fired on them, a barrage of police gunfire abruptly cuts Bart down. With poetic justice, he falls next to her. Their bodies lie united together - with Bart on his back and Laurie on her side. The film's sad theme song mournfully plays one last time, as the two representatives of the law look down at their fallen bodies in the heavenly shroud, and the camera pulls back and then up above their soggy, yet romantic grave:
Unidentified policeman: You all right, Sheriff?
Clyde: Yeah, yeah, we're all right.
The end title: "THE END" zooms outward from the center of the screen, as a heavenly chorus adds a final exclamation.
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AMC Filmcritic's Review of Gun Crazy