Norman Foster’s 1950’s noir classic Woman on the Run has been given the full re-release treatment by Arrow Films in a gorgeous Blu-ray/DVD combo. Co-produced and starring the wise-cracking Ann Sheridan as the titular woman, this latest incarnation of the film’s release has been terrifically rescued and restored thanks to the Film Noir Foundation following a fire in 2008 that included the last print of the film in America.
One night, on a hillside overlooking the city lights of 1950’s San Francisco, Frank Johnson is walking his mutt Rembrandt. Striking his match across a sign, he notices a car pull up on the road. Gunshots are heard before a body is pushed out of the car. The killer narrowly misses Frank who has witnessed all this, making him the perfect witness to the murder and the man the police need. The only problem is… Frank has disappeared.
Now the inspector on the case (played by the stage actor Robert Keith) has his focus on Frank’s wife Eleanor (played by Ann Sheridan). Believing she’ll aid in the effort to find her missing husband (as any wife is expected to), they actually discover that Frank and Eleanor’s relationship is on uncertain grounds. At this point early in the film we really discover what the film is about. Norman Foster wasn’t concerned with the typical archetypal characters found in classic 50’s noir. Instead, Woman on the Run is a noir-melodrama that subverts expectations in order focus on the relationship between a husband and wife in relation to post-war American society.
This genre-breaking narrative style piqued interest at the time of the film’s initial release and appears to have been implemented in the early stages of the production. Based off a short story by Sylvia Tate, with Sheridan as co-producer – Woman on the Run feels ahead of its time with respect to its female lead. Sheridan certainly shines opposite the obnoxious and mysterious tabloid sleaze Leggett (played by Dennis O’Keefe), dealing out equal quips to the controlling men around her.
This light and dark dynamic plays through Woman on the Run, with Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith) on one shoulder playing the role of the good angel and Leggett on the other as the devil. Despite its noir plot, Norman Foster and the screenwriters are more interested in exploring a woman’s perceived role in society whilst elevating her character beyond a tiresome bitchy wife role that cinema audiences had come to expect at the time. With twists and turns throughout, Woman on the Run is a fascinating antidote to the male dominated genre.
Packed with great selections of extras – from audio commentaries to mini documentary/behind the camera short pieces – Arrow Films’ presentation of Woman on the Run feels like the definitive release of the film. Despite being subjected to a fire, the film glows in terrific high definition. With a running time at just under ninety minutes, Woman on the Run flies by in a heartbeat. If you like your films with a strong female lead and are curious to dip your toes in the murky waters of American 50’s noir then Woman on the Run is a perfect place to start.
Woman On The Run is out now.