Also known as: The Gun (working title)
Release Date: December 26th, 1950
Directed by: Felix E. Feist
Written by: Seton I. Miller, Philip MacDonald
Music by: Louis Forbes
Cast: Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, John Dall
Jack M. Warner Productions, 20th Century Fox, 81 Minutes
“This is my first time out. How am I doin’?” – Andy Cullen, “All right, kid. Do any better, and I’ll be out of a job.” – Police Lt. Ed Cullen
The Man Who Cheated Himself is a neat little film-noir that stars the always domineering Lee J. Cobb in a rare role where he isn’t shouting a lot.
It also stars Jane Wyatt, who just feels completely out of place as the femme fatale type, as she is most synonymous for playing the mother in Father Knows Best. It also stars John Dall, who I loved in Gun Crazy and Rope, as well as a very young Lisa Howard before she went on to be a controversial news figure that committed suicide at 35 years-old.
Unfortunately, this is a film suffering from multiple personality disorder.
It is pretty dull and comes off as uneventful, even though there are things happening. This film just lacks excitement and energy. I’m not sure if that’s because Lee J. Cobb was told to play this role a bit more chill than he normally does or if he was bored doing it and didn’t give us a boisterous performance. When I watch a film with Cobb, I expect a certain panache and he just didn’t have it here.
Additionally, everything is just sort of dry. This isn’t a new story and really, just borrows heavily from several films within the classic film-noir style. There isn’t much to set this apart and to make it stand out among its peers.
However, the final scene at Fort Point (under the Golden Gate Bridge) was an incredibly well shot sequence that built immense suspense and had me at the edge of my seat. But it builds such great tension and then falls flat, as the bad guys get caught in the most anticlimactic way possible. This sequence must have made a fan out of Alfred Hitchock though, as he used the same location in his classic picture Vertigo.
I probably expected more out of this film than it had to give. I like Cobb, I thought his performance in 12 Angry Men was incredible but even great actors have duds from time to time.
Pairs well with: Other old school film-noirs: Roadblock, Quicksand!, Pitfall, Please Murder Me!, Too Late For Tears, Shock, etc.