The Dark Past was undoubtedly a more powerful and effective film when it was first realized than it is when viewed today. The film's "psychological insight" now comes across as nothing more than simpleminded psychobabble, and the ability of the psychologist to cure a hardened, murderous criminal in a few short hours is so ludicrous that it cannot help but invoke laughter. Matters are not helped appreciably by dialogue that is often painful, or by the film's all-too-clear stage origins. The lack of variety in its settings, which could have created an appropriately claustrophobic atmosphere, instead merely makes for a visually dull film. Fortunately, Past features a powerful, gutsy performance from William Holden and a quieter, more controlled but still mesmerizing one from Lee J. Cobb. These two performances, along with Nina Foch's gun moll, and the occasional trick from director Rudolph Maté, make the film worth catching. Neither Holden nor Cobb is giving his best performance, but each one is on his game here, pushing all the right buttons and using his considerable talents to spark life into this otherwise routine melodrama.
by Craig Butler review