Film noir tends to be populated with characters who are dirt poor. 1950’s Try and Get Me stays truer to those characters than most films of the era—Frank Lovejoy and his family actually have a dirt yard around their crappy house.
This movie was originally released as The Sound of Fury, and those who are familiar with the Fritz Lang film Fury starring Spencer Tracy might get a feeling of déjà vu in the second half. That’s because both movies were inspired by a terrifying incident in San Jose in 1933 when a mob stormed the jail and lynched two men awaiting trial for murder. That incident makes me wonder if the song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” originally had a line right after the title going, “’Cause I want to stay the hell away from that batshit place.”
Lang’s film has it’s own interesting spin on that event, and I am not going to spoil it here. I will also try to not spoil Try and Get Me, though that is going to be more difficult to do. The problem is not much happens here.
In the first half, Lovejoy is a jobless sad-sack who meets a far-too-energetic Lloyd Bridges in a bowling alley and they immediately hit it off. Soon, he’s committing crimes with Bridges and getting a fat wallet. But Bridges is a loose canon and, inevitably, people die and these two end up in the hoosgow, where they learn there’s no justice like mob justice.
I never could figure out why Lovejoy immediately takes a liking to Bridges and becomes rather subservient to him. I started wondering if there were subversive undertones hinting at a different type of relationship, such as what Hitchcock suggests is happening between his young murderers in Rope.
While I never quite grasped what Lovejoy is doing with his character, Bridges delivers a tour de force performance like a methed-up real-life embodiment of a Looney Tunes character. I’m not sure I would have batted an eye if he suddenly appeared dangling from the ceiling and saying he sure picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. I find it interesting how his real-life son, Jeff, tends to play lower energy roles, in comparison.
Another actor I thought was interesting is Richard Carlson as a newspaper reporter whose coverage is supposedly what whips the mob into a fervor. What I found bizarre about Carlson is, the first time he appears, I thought it was Phil Hartman. Then I realized how impossible that would be. Then he spoke and, once again, I thought, “Phil Hartman?!”
Try and Get Me is a competent noir, but I felt like I was seeing a subpar film in the first half, followed by a stronger second half that seemed to wander in from somewhere else. That seems odd, since what happens in the latter half is the direct result of actions that came before it. Anywho, I think it is will be appreciated by genre fans.
Dir: Cy Endfield
Starring Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, Kathleen Ryan
Watched on blu-ray