Cast & Crew
Arthur D. Ripley
When veteran Chuck Scott finds a wallet in front of a Miami diner, he uses some of the money inside to buy himself breakfast and a cigar before returning the wallet to its owner, Eddie Roman. The wealthy and sadistic Roman is astonished by Chuck's honesty and rewards him with a chauffeur's job. One day, as Chuck is driving Roman and his assistant, Gino, Roman turns on a second set of controls in the back of the car and, without informing Chuck, increases the driving speed. When Chuck comments on it, Roman instructs him to pay attention to steering and then proceeds to try and outrun a train. At the last minute, Roman slams on the brakes and, thanks to Chuck's skill at driving, narrowly avoids a crash. Roman viciously punishes those who cross him, murdering a competitor when the latter refuses to sell him a pair of ships. He also keeps a tight reign on his wife Lorna, who obtains some solace on long drives with Chuck. One night, after spending hours looking at the ocean, Lorna offers Chuck one thousand dollars if he will take her to Havana. The next day, Chuck buys two tickets to Havana and, together with Lorna, plots their escape. That night, Chuck packs his suitcase and lies down for a rest. Later, looking for Chuck, Gino finds a travel brochure for Havana, and he and Roman set off after the escaping couple. On board ship, Chuck and Lorna begin an affair. After landing in Havana, they take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage and the driver forces them to leave the carriage in front of a bar. Trying to make the best of it, they go inside for a drink. There, Lorna is stabbed to death and Chuck is accused of her murder. Chuck tries to convince the police of his innocence, but every clue he turns up seems to prove his guilt. Chuck creates a disturbance and escapes, only to be shot by Gino. When Chuck awakens, he is still in his room at Roman's house. The trip to Havana was a dream, but he is disoriented by it and does not recognize his surroundings. Chuck hurries to the naval hospital and there tells his doctor what has happened. Although the doctor reminds him that he is suffering from shock, Chuck anxiously keeps watching the clock, sure that he is late for some appointment that he does not remember. The doctor takes him to a nightclub for a drink, and there Chuck sees Roman and Gino. The sight of the two men jogs Chuck's memory, and he hurries back to the house to meet Lorna. In the meantime, Roman accidentally discovers that Chuck purchased two tickets to Havana, and he and Gino rush to the docks. On the way, Roman tries to outrun a train, but Gino, who is driving, is not able to control the car and the two men are killed in the ensuing crash. Chuck and Lorna arrive safely in Havana, where they will begin their new life together.
Arthur D. Ripley
Ray O. Binger
Victor A. Gangelin
Frank F. Planer
The Chase/Bury Me Dead - Film Noir B-Movie Double Feature
Now, all that being said, what of the movies themselves?
The Chase, an obscure, forgotten film, turns out to be a lesser noir, but it nonetheless boasts an intriguing dreamlike atmosphere with expressionistic photography from Franz Planer. Robert Cummings stars as a WWII vet who falls into a job as chauffeur for gangster Steve Cochran and henchman Peter Lorre. Cochran turns out to have an unhappy and unfaithful wife (Michele Morgan), whom Cummings, in classic noir tradition, promptly falls for and plans to run away with. From there the plot takes on surprising twists. Cochran almost steals the show (the scene where he is brutal to his manicurist is memorably nasty), but it is the pictorialism and a few original story elements which lift this movie above the average. The most bizarre of these is a James Bond-like backseat accelerator in Cochran's car that must be seen to be believed! Another sequence involving an attack dog in a wine cellar is an imaginative and spooky idea carried out to only moderate effect. In the hands of a stronger director it could have been a real winner.
Even so, director Arthur Ripley does have something of a cult following. He began as a cinematographer in the 1910s and then found success as a gag writer for Mack Sennett in the 1920s, working alongside Frank Capra. Later Ripley wrote two of Capra's silent features. In the 1930s he added directing to his resume and years later he retired to become UCLA's first film professor, significantly shaping what was to become a leading U.S. film school.
The screenplay for The Chase was by Philip Yordan from a Cornell Woolrich novel called The Black Path of Fear. Woolrich was a major name in film noir, with eleven stories adapted into movies over the years. Yordan was an equally important noir writer and would soon begin a long association with director Anthony Mann, writing other noirs like Reign of Terror, westerns like The Man From Laramie, the combat film Men in War, and the epic El Cid.
Bury Me Dead begins with June Lockhart showing up at her own funeral, incognito. Thinking that someone attempted to murder her, she begins to investigate who was really killed and who the murderer is. The suspects parade by - her estranged husband, her lawyer, her younger sister, her romantic rival, her boxer boyfriend, her butler and housekeeper. One by one they react with shock to the fact that Lockhart is alive, and one by one they share their stories via flashback. The audience is inundated with red herrings.
It sounds like a cheap knockoff of Laura, and in some ways it is, but Bury Me Dead also attempts something different. It's a whodunnit, but it mixes in slapstick humor throughout the story, resulting in an odd brew indeed. While it's true, as Jay Fenton points out on his commentary track, that the comedy makes it harder for the audience to guess whodunnit (since we're not likely to suspect characters who make us laugh), it also creates a movie of uneven tone and stilted performances.
It also makes it quite a stretch to label Bury Me Dead a "film noir." It has atmospheric noir-ish lighting, by the great John Alton no less, but it lacks the feelings of dread, paranoia and despair that define the true noir style. (The Chase is much more a noir.) The flashback structure which lends an air of fatalism to many great noirs here merely keeps a mysterious story engaging. The director, Bernard Vorhaus, was an interesting fellow. An American who found most of his success in England and was blacklisted in the 1950s, he was a mentor to David Lean, who called him his biggest influence. In Hollywood, Vorhaus followed up Bury Me Dead with the superb The Spiritualist (1948), also known as The Amazing Mr. X, again working with John Alton and resulting in a remarkably gorgeous picture. It's too bad that there isn't a better print available for Bury Me Dead - watching a lousy print of an Alton film is practically torture. Still, it gives a taste of his artistry, which is better than nothing at all.
VCI Entertainment's DVD of this double feature is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it comes with a decent amount of extras - commentaries, actor biographies, trailers, a poster gallery and a fun 1942 color Superman cartoon. On the other hand, the prints and soundtracks leave much to be desired, and the menus are irritatingly slow to load. Overall, the DVD is worth it for a look at two B obscurities with some unique things going for them.
For more information about The Chase/Bury Me Dead, visit VCI Entertainment.
by Jeremy Arnold
The Chase/Bury Me Dead - Film Noir B-Movie Double Feature
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Joan Leslie was signed to play the role of "Lorna" on March 6, 1946, although she was still under contract to Warner Bros. and had not obtained a release from them. The studio refused to lend her and obtained a restraining order on April 18, 1946 to prevent her from appearing in pictures for other producers. Leslie attempted to void her studio contract, which still had three years to run, claiming that as she had signed the initial contract when she was a minor, she had the right to disaffirm her contract when she reached the age of consent as she did in February 1946. On March 25, 1947, the district court of appeals upheld a April 23, 1946 ruling that freed Leslie from her Warner Bros. contract.