As promised, here’s my review of Too Late For Tears, Arrow Academy’s other recent film noir re-release, alongside Woman on the Run. Like the latter, Too Late For Tears was not a financial success at the time of its original release and its production company later went bankrupt. This lead to the film being relatively lost, hovering around only in poor quality public domain copies. Luckily, the UCLA Film & Television Archive got their hands on a French 35mm nitrate Dupe Picture Negative (where the film was named La Tigresse), the only preprint element known to survive. They polished up the film and Arrow Academy are releasing it to us lucky folk in the UK on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD.
Too Late For Tears opens with a preposterous but nevertheless enticing premise. Husband and wife Alan (Arthur Kennedy) and Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) are arguing whilst driving down a windy road at night. They almost crash into someone then get a mysterious bag thrown into their back seat. They soon realise the bag is filled with cash and decide to drive off with it, shaking off the rightful owner’s car that quickly appears behind them. Once home, Alan thinks they should give the money in to the police, but Jane disagrees. She’s clearly not happy with the way her life is going at the minute, but the surprise arrival of all this money revitalises her. Determined to a frightening degree, she will stop at nothing to keep the money. Even the arrival of Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), whose car the money should have fallen into, doesn’t dissuade Jane. In fact, she manipulates him into helping her get the money from Alan, who has put it away in a locker for safe keeping before calling the police.
Of course, it’s not going to end well for anyone…
Film noir is a genre that’s hard to clearly categorise, even though most people seem to be able to spot one when they see one. Something common to most film noir though is the femme fatale and Too Late For Tears has a humdinger in the cruel and disturbingly focussed Jane, who is put front and centre. “You’re quite a gal, Mrs. Palmer”, remarks Fuller at one point. She may be the ‘bad guy’ of the film, more so than Fuller, but we follow her story more closely than anyone else’s. Alan’s sister Kathy (Kristine Miller) is the only spotlessly ‘clean’ character, but the prime focus of the film is always Jane. This makes Too Late For Tears a particularly cold and mean film noir, but it’s all the better for it.
Lizabeth Scott pulls off the difficult feat of keeping the audience interested in her mission too, even if her actions become increasingly more drastic. She has a frightening streak, but also the sexuality to make her manipulation of the male characters convincing and enough vulnerability to make her scenes with Duryea difficult to gauge just who we should be scared of. Speaking of their scenes together, there are some scenes of violence towards Jane coming from Fuller, which are still quite shocking. There’s even a not-so-subtle suggestion of rape at one point, giving this a dark edge that films of that era rarely have.
Maybe I’m just comparing it to the super tight Woman on the Run because I watched them in quick concession, but Too Late For Tears felt like it could have been slightly punchier though. It feels a tad too long, but nevertheless, all the double crossing and scheming keeps the plot moving and it’s certainly never dull.
Overall, it’s a gritty, dirty noir thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you gripped. It’s pulpier than Woman on the Run and has less heart, but feels more like a ‘proper’ film noir for these reasons. Again, it’s an easy recommendation to fans of the genre.
Too Late For Tears is out on 13th June on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK, released by Arrow Academy. I saw the Blu-Ray version and the picture quality was very good considering the film’s negatives were almost lost. The audio on the film seemed a bit quiet compared to the features, but was clear enough once I’d cranked up the volume.
You get a great selection of special features too. Here’s the full list:
– Audio Commentary by writer, historian, and film programmer Alan K. Rode
– Chance Of A Lifetime: The Making of Too Late For Tears a new behind-the-scenes examination of the film s original production produced by Steven Smith and the Film Noir Foundation and featuring noir experts Eddie Muller, Kim Morgan, and Julie Kirgo
– Tiger Hunt: Restoring Too Late For Tears a chronicle of the multi-year mission to rescue this lost noir classic produced by Steven Smith and the Film Noir Foundation
– Gallery featuring rare photographs, poster art and original lobby cards
– Booklet featuring new writing by writer and noir expert Brian Light
The commentary is very well researched and should fill you in on all you’d ever want to know about the film and those involved. ‘Chance of a Lifetime’ is a very strong making of featurette – informative, rich despite the short length and fun to watch. Like the restoration featurette on Woman on the Run, ‘Tiger Hunt’ tells a surprisingly entertaining story of the film’s resurrection too and the booklet included is a must read as usual. The Film Noir Foundation and Arrow have done a great job in supplementing these releases with decent features.