Out of the Past is often cited as one of the best noirs ever, and with good reason! Jane Greer, gorgeous, slinky, and absolutely ruthless, and Robert Mitchum, droopy-eyed and victimized by fate, are fantastic. The plot structure is classic: a decent guy is destroyed by a fatal woman and a past which he tries to outrun, but which inevitably overtakes and devours him. Marvelous dialog and Kirk Douglas as a cold-hearted mobster complete the inky tableau.
Jeff Bailey is a private eye retained by Whit, the mobster, to find and retrieve his moll, Kathy, who shot him in the belly a few times before decamping with $40,000. Jeff finds her down Mexico way, a long, tall, cool drink of white in the afternoon sun, and, of course, he’s done for.
I never saw her in the daytime. We seemed to live by night. What was left of the day went away like a pack of cigarettes you smoked. I didn’t know where she lived. I never followed her. All I ever had to go on was a place and time to see her again. I don’t know what we were waiting for. Maybe we thought the world would end
How big a chump can you get to be? I was finding out.
On the beach, Kathy tells all to Jeff, and he abandons himself to her and to his destruction:
But I didn’t take anything. I didn’t, Jeff. Don’t you believe me?
Baby, I don’t care.
Ah, but later, the crosses, double-crosses, and various twists intervene, and Jeff sees that Kathy is not one to be trusted even as far as you can see her.
Can’t you even feel sorry for me?
I’m not going to try.
Just get out, will you? I have to sleep in this room.
Jeff eventually finds himself trapped in the web of this black widow, expostuating fatalistically, “Build my gallows high, baby.” But he gets his wish:
Oh, Jeff, I don’t want to die!
Neither do I, baby, but if I have to, I’m gonna die last.
She didn’t have to kill him, but it was so much easier that way.