Walsh, Warners, Westerns: PURSUED

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Pursued | Warner Brothers | Raoul Walsh | 1947

Raoul Walsh had a knack for parkour-sprinting through immense thickets of Narrative, and under the zip-along auspices of Warner Brothers he usually had harebrained Cagney or fleet-footed Flynn to run these hundred yard dashes through tumultuous decades-spanning lifetimes-in-motion. But here in Pursued, you got Robert Mitchum in the lead. Mitchum doesn’t sprint; rather he trudges with stonewall resilience, the ambulatory analogue to his velvet-thunder voice. Further relaxing the usual Warner Bros bullet-train tempo, this is a movie swamped in haunted-past psychodrama the likes of which was slowly creeping into Hollywood filmmaking in the late forties, and which Walsh would manage more dexterously just a few years later in White Heat. But he’s not quite there yet, and as of Pursued, he’s burdened with the Sisyphean task of rushing easy-does-it Mitchum through a birth-to-near-death chronicle of generational haunts and relationships torn asunder, all clocked in at 100 minutes and with plenty of cool-as-shit action sequences to spare. And, well, he does it! Not without clumsy voice-over and occasionally unconvincing motif-threading, but at the end of the day, Walsh gets the kicks he needs from the material, James Wong Howe motion-sculpts with light and shadow, and Mitchum — though not quite ideal — acquits himself more than admirably. Huzzah!!!!

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