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Too Late For Tears | Blu-ray Review

Too Late For Tears Blu-ray ReviewToday, director Byron Haskin is best remembered as the director of the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds, and prior to his success as a visionary director, a thrice Oscar nominated visual effects supervisor. While his string of action and adventure collaborations with producer George Pal (Treasure Island; The Naked Jungle) stand out in his filmography (although reports indicate an extreme friction on set of their last production, 1968’s The Power), he also was responsible for the indelible 1949 film noir, Too Late For Tears, written by writer/producer Roy Huggins who adapted from his own serial and source novel. After wallowing for decades in the public domain, the title was restored in 2014 from an original 35mm print thanks to UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Noir Foundation, at last rehabilitating one of underrated Lizabeth Scott’s signature performances as a conniving, manipulative, money hungry femme fatale.

Jane Palmer (Scott) and her affable husband Alan (Arthur Kennedy) are on their way to meet a more affluent couple for an evening out of the house. But Jane expresses concerns about the snooty dinner date, deterred by the obvious fact they have less means than their wealthier friends. As they turn to go home, a briefcase filled with $60,000 dollars suddenly lands in the backseat. Before they can comprehend why, they’re suddenly involved in a high speed chase through the Hollywood Hills, with Jane desperately escaping who they assume the money was intended to be delivered to. Once they reach safety, Alan tries to convince Jane they should turn the money over to the police. But Jane thinks otherwise, and gets Alan to agree to store the money so they can sit and think on it. However, she’s unable to abstain from a rather noticeable shopping spree, something she can’t hide when a man (Dan Duryea) posing as a cop comes snooping around to collect the money he claims to be rightfully his. Jane, on the other hand, isn’t willing to let the cash slip through her fingers quite so easily.

Too Late For Tears is neither the first nor last noir vehicle for Lizabeth Scott, who quickly rose to fame in the late 40s thanks to a starring role opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1947’s Dead Reckoning. She would continue with a string of vehicles sometimes regarded as B noirs (Two of a Kind; Dark City; Bad For Each Other), but her performance as the ruthless Jane Palmer remains one of the genre’s meatiest and devious since the film revolves exclusively around her actions and not those of her male co-stars.

The history of Scott’s grooming for stardom throughout the 1940s is equally fascinating, caught up in a war between studio heads and the nagging reputation of her position as a specific rival for Lauren Bacall, which might explain the lesser success of several of Scott’s equally impressive performances (not to mention her notable husky growl, profoundly thrilling in Haskin’s film, such as an instance where she blurts out the thought of losing the money makes her feel sick and twisted inside). Film noir stalwart Dan Duryea (Lang’s Scarlet Street) is equally effective in another sleazy role, this time as a man duped into thinking he’ll easily be able to obtain his money from Scott’s plotting housewife and score some side play to boot.

Where Too Late For Tears suffers most is with its more peripheral characters, particularly those situated to enforce the social norms, such as Kristine Miller as Scott’s nubile sister-in-law (she pronounces the word ‘buoyant’ as if she meant ‘bon vivant’) and an incredibly grating Don DeFore as a lurker with a secret agenda.

Disc Review:

As with their other noir release, 1950’s Woman on the Run, Flicker Alley proves to be a new major player in presentation with this significant restoration. Picture and sound quality are masterful, especially compared to the less than desirable prints previously floating around (the title has been included in a number of public domain noir boxsets), and the label scores extra points for some passionate extra features and a fun 24 page souvenir booklet (plus audio commentary from writer and historian Alan K. Rode). These two titles are Flicker Alley’s first collaborations with The Film Noir Foundation and hopefully promises the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

Chance of a Lifetime – The Making of Too Late For Tears:
This sixteen minute feature is an examination of Haskin’s film, which Eddie Muller credits as one of Dan Duryea’s most complex performances.

Tiger Hunt – Restoring Too Late For Tears:
This brief four and a half minute feature discusses the copyright history and restoration process of the title.

Final Thoughts:

“I don’t know if I’d like you if you had a heart,” Duryea tells Scott’s Jane Palmer towards the grand finale of Too Late For Tears—and we probably wouldn’t either, because behind her pretty smile and blonde tresses lies something incredibly maleficent in one of cinema’s most matter-of-fact femme fatales.

Film Review: ★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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