Director: Don Siegel
A tight little film from RKO, I thought maybe I'd seen The Big Steal (1949) when I saw it listed just based on the cast. William Bendix, Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum is plenty to get me to take a look. And, yes, given the non-descriptive names of many-a-film noir, I have to check to see what the movie is and if the summary of plot rings any bells. And even then, I'm often 5 to 10 minutes into a movie and realize "say... I've seen this before".
But... no. I hadn't seen the movie.
It's a lot of plot, a minimum of character, and swings between comedy, road trip movie and crime movie surprisingly deftly. Mitchum plays a guy on the run from the US Army, looking for Jane Greer's fiancé (Patric Knowles), Fiske. The fiancé swears he's on the up and up to Greer when she finds him in a Mexican hotel minus the $2000 he took when he split without a word. But he swears he'll have it. That very day, in fact.
And then he bounces as Greer takes a shower.
Mitchum and Greer team-up and go after him, and do that "they irritate each other" to "romance is blossoming" thing. Bendix pursues semi-ruthlessly. But the Mexican setting and characters are marginally more than a back-drop in this film. Ramon Navarro as the Inspector General and Don Alvarado as Lt. Ruiz are watching our Americans flail around and set their own plan in motion that's 2 steps ahead of our leads. Greer speaks Spanish and has an understanding of her surroundings that Mitchum lacks - and is way too distracted to learn more. But you do get an idea that this movie is trying harder than some others that treat Mexico as one big resort via Greer and our police officers and a few other players (the road crew boss is excellent).
Anyway - it's Mitchum playing Mitchum, Bendix playing Bendix and Jane Greer looking lovely and having some excellent beats, both comedic and otherwise. This film is two years after Out of the Past, which also teamed Greer and Mitchum, and my guess is they must have liked working together. But it's so... different. But, still, within their personas all three leads could really stretch and do whatever was needed. The much lighter tone here - I mean, the movie ends on a punchline callback - allows Greer to do some very different work than the few other films of this era where I've seen her. And we know Mitchum and Bendix can do comedy, and it all holds. The movie doesn't feel tonally off as it leaps around, it just goes with the adventure of the high-stakes road trip.
I dug it. Not going to set the world on fire, but it was enjoyable. And, hey, we got to see Jane Greer drive like a maniac.