Robert Mitchum was made for black and white movies and the noir genre. Here, the lighting captures his features mesmerically, like the extraordinary shadowed beauty of a moonscape. And then there's the voice, slow as sarsaparilla, deep as a honey jar ... just as smooth, but 140 proof! Mitchum's is a very physical presence, a very physical style of acting, but unforgettable.
Told in flashback - hence the title - there is plenty of opportunity for Mitchum to narrate the story, using that voice to carry you along. For a film actor, he has a voice which would have made him a radio star. Director Tourneur clearly understands this and builds on the visual and audio strengths of the production.
Geoff Bailey (Mitchum) is fleeing his past by hiding in a small town, miles from nowhere. His past, in the form of Kirk Douglas, catches up with him. His past also takes on the shape of the femme fatale, Kathy (Jane Greer). Douglas is wonderfully malevolent - there is a dual of the dimpled chins as he and Mitchum indulge in confrontational banter.
It starts out as a simple story, maybe even a love story, then twists like a trenchcoat belt. Mitchum chainsmokes his way through. Will he get the girl, the homespun Anne, the small town girl next door who is so enamoured of him, or will his past suck him back down?
Mitchum is built for a trenchcoat - he wears it in precisely the way Columbo can't. The story hangs about his central character in much the same way. It fits his acting and his presence perfectly. A superb example of the noir genre, a film you can watch and watch.