Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walsh & Wind

One thing White Heat tells us: that Walsh would have made a damn fine Val Lewton picture. Specifically in the scene where Virginia Mayo and Steve Cochran are holed up in a big empty house, having just received the news of Cagney's prison escape. Mayo stands poised against the wall and fidgety, eyes darting and ears tuned in anxiously to every harsh, tiny house sound. Thorny editing creates an ambiance of paranoia, sinister radio music hums at a low level, and all of a sudden we are in the middle of a monster movie ("It ain't just like waitin' for some human being who wants to kill you...Cody ain't human!") Mayo retreats to her room, only to bolt up out of bed with terror-filled eyes and make a doomed break for a car parked in the barn, her jaunt through the shadowy, tempestuous yard playing as a mini-version of the famous stroll through the reeds in I Walked With a Zombie. Walsh insists on wind in both audio and visual terms all throughout White Heat, and it is almost always bound to the volatility of Cagney's iconic sociopath Cody Jarrett. Cagney is in fact most menacing in this masterful sequence of suggestive horror, where he's largely absent and yet still very much present, abstracted into wisps of pure mania whipping through the trees.

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