Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Dark Past (1948)


“Perhaps the memory that causes your dream has something to do with your family, your mother maybe.”

            The Dark Past has an interesting plot but it is one that had been and has been done a million times. It starts off with a police psychologist named Dr. Andrew Collins (Lee J. Cobb) looking at men in a line up. He sees there is a young teenage boy in it. The boy looks  nervous and he tries to act tough when he is asked his name. At the end of the lineup he tells someone he wants to work with the young boy. The person asks why of all the men they just saw would he want to waste his time with a boy. Andrew recalls his ordeal with a criminal named Al Walker (William Holden).
            A few years ago Andrew had been working at a college as a psychology professor. He and his family and some of their friends went away to their house out on a lake. He and his friend Professor Linden are set to go out hunting one day and he gives Linden his gun to fix.
            On the same day on the front page of the paper is a story about how a notorious killer named Al Walker had escaped from jail. Walker, his men, the prison warden, and his girlfriend Betty (Nina Foch) are driving in a car down towards the lake. They will be staying at Andrew’s house without him knowing to wait for their getaway. Walker has the car pulled over so the warden can get out. He lets the warden walk a bit and then shoots the man dead. That night they ambush Andrew’s house from the outside in. Walker has the maids shut up in the basement, three of the guests upstairs, and Andrew’s wife and son in another room. Linden comes by the house with the shot gun. He mentions he passed some police officers on the road looking for Walker. Andrew makes a gesture that Walker is in the house and Linden says something about the trigger on the gun not working and points the gun towards where Walker is hiding. Walker comes out and shoots Linden in the arm.
            Every move Andrew makes agitates Walker making him very jumpy. Andrew has kept very calm and makes it a point to study Walker. He notices that the criminal keeps staring at book on insanity. Andrew begins to talk to Walker as if he was a patient. He explains how the brain works in two ways: the conscious and the unconscious. He asks Walker if something traumatic happened to him in his childhood.  Walker immediately gets defensive and anxious. Betty comes downstairs to take care of Walker and help him get to sleep. She explains to Andrew that Walker has the same dream over and over again of being outside and it starts to rain. An umbrella appears over him but there is a hole and he tries to stop the rain from coming in but it keeps coming and it hurts his hand. When he goes to get out from under the umbrella he is behind bars.
            The police come because they have been called by Linden’s wife. Linden was supposed to be home 
around 9:30pm and it is two in the morning. Walker shoots up when he hears the doorbell. He makes Andrew answer it and say that Linden left a long time ago and that he is the only one awake in the house. After the police leave Andrew tells Walker that he can help make his nightmare go away if he will tell him about it. Andrew breaks down the dream: when Walker was younger he lead the police to a man who was doing illegal things. When the police came in he dove under the table. The man was shot and he staggered over to where Walker was under the table and fell on the table. The man’s blood seeped through the cracks and Walker tried to stop the blood from coming through but it dripped onto his hand. Andrew figures Walker is guilty because the man he gave up was his father and he gave up his father so that  he could be alone with his mother who used to baby him when the father was away.
            Maids down in the basement managed to get away and get the police to come to the house. Walker planned to shoot his way out of the house but Andrew put the idea into his head that he can no longer shoot people because of his guilt at killing his father. He was right and Walker is taken away.
            Back in the present Andrew tells the person that he wants to help the young boy seek help because he does not want him to end up like Al Walker. He wants to stop the boy from becoming a true criminal.

            The Dark Past was alright. As I said the story had been done before this and has been done since. It was based off of a play and you get that feeling with the whole story just taking place in the house. William Holden as a bad guy was interesting to see since he always played a good guy. Nina Foch did well in an early role. Lee J. Cobb was believable as the psychologist who keeps it cool with a psychopath in his house. The Dark Past is a film to watch only if you are a fan of either William Holden or Nina Foch. It is not required viewing.