The Clay Pigeon (1949)

Genres - Thriller, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Film Noir  |   Release Date - Feb 14, 1949 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 63 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A taut, lean film noir that uses one of the genre's favorite gimmicks -- amnesia -- The Clay Pigeon is a B-movie that achieves A-level status. Undeniably gripping, Pigeon manages to be an excellent movie despite the fact that so much of its screenplay is contrived. Yet writer Carl Foreman seems to understand that there's a way to artfully contrive a piece, and he does so here with dexterity and skill -- or perhaps just plain luck. Whatever the case, Pigeon is one of those films that never wastes a moment and that builds from strength to strength. Equal credit for its success must go to director Richard Fleischer, who displays an energy and intensity here that is truly admirable, and which would have been very welcome in some of his later bloated epics. Fleischer keeps things moving yet imbues each scene with a sense of unease, reflecting the rather nightmarish world that is enveloping the hero. He's ably abetted by the fine lensing of Robert de Grasse and by an imaginative use of his limited budget. Although Bill Williams lacks star charisma, that works for him here, helping us see the character as more of an identifiable "everyman" type, and there's clear chemistry between him and Barbara Hale.