Directed by André De Toth. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt, Raymond Burr, John Litel, Byron Barr, Tommy Forbes, Ann Doran, Selmer Jackson, Margaret Wells, Dick Wessel. Theatrically released August 2, 1948. 86 minutes Released on DVD and blu ray by Kino Lorber
Post war American cinema often investigated the humdrum lives that Americans had settled into, with ordinary jobs, suburban homes, and predictable circumstances. In “Pitfall,” Dick Powell stars as an insurance man who is tired of his dull life, despite a good job, a loving wife and a happy, healthy young son. He craves excitement, even danger, and makes it known that he’s bored with the sameness of everything. When he goes to visit a woman to retrieve expensive gifts given to her by an embezzler, he falls for her alluring beauty and eventually starts to have an affair, unbeknownst to his wife. His rival is a private detective who works for his insurance company, and who also has designs on the woman. Finally, the embezzler is released from prison, further complicating matters. Caught in a whirlwind of beatings, shootings, and deceit, the man longs to have his ordinary life back, but in the end he realizes it will never be the same.
Dick Powell had been a boyishly charming singer in musicals of the 1930s such as “Footlight Parade” and “Hollywood Hotel”, his style falling out of favor by the time he did “In the Navy” with Abbott and Costello in 1941. His career was renewed when he starred in “Murder My Sweet,” and his screen persona was redefined in film noir, of which “Pitfall” is a good example. Lizabeth Scott is the quintessential femme fatale, with her striking beauty and husky voice. Raymond Burr’s powerful command of his role makes his performance as the insecure detective another strong element of the movie. Jane Wyatt as the supportive wife, who is forgiving but realistic about the future in the end, completes the ensemble.
Director Andre de Toth helmed a lot of interesting films in various genres, including the 3-D “House of Wax,” several westerns, and film noir such as this movie. His pace is very leisurely, allowing characters and situations to develop, soon revealing insecurities, paranoia, deceit, and despair.
The blu ray from Kino Lorber was mastered in high definition from a 35mm dupe negative preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The audio commentary by film historian Eddie Muller is an insightful and informative special feature. “Pitfall” is a strong movie with great performances and effective direction. Kino Lorber’s blu ray is especially recommended.