Pitfall (1948)

“A man can be as strong as steel … but somewhere there’s a woman who’ll break him!” An interesting look at post-World War II malaise, this rather obscure black-and-white film noir was directed by Andre De Toth (House of Wax) and based on a novel of the same name by Jay Dratler (the lurid book cover screams: “Mona was doom … but he couldn’t stay away!”). Dick Powell stars as “John Forbes” a middle-aged family man and insurance company claims investigator (seemingly living the American Dream in Los Angeles) who feels deadened and frustrated by his boring, mind-numbing daily routine. A little danger and excitement enters his life in the form of sexy model “Mona Stevens” (Lizabeth Scott) who Forbes meets while investigating an embezzlement case. As Forbes gets quickly reeled in by the seductive femme fatale, he faces a rival for her affections in sleazy private investigator and ex-cop “MacDonald” (Raymond Burr). Tensions arise and Forbes’ life starts totally falling apart as he desperately tries to cover up evidence of the affair while also dealing with the psychotic stalker McDonald. Forbes also attempts to fudge insurance papers to allow Mona to keep a little speedboat (appropriately named “Tempest”). To top it off, Mona’s jealous boyfriend “Bill Smiley” (Byron Barr) is about to be released from jail (McDonald has tipped him off about the affair, gets him drunk and gives him both a gun and Forbes’ address!). There’s a great scene that features a totally broken and defeated Forbes wandering aimlessly through the streets of Los Angeles. Look for Jane Wyatt as Forbes’ ideal wife, “Sue” (basically playing the same role she would bring to perfection as “Margaret Anderson” in the Father Knows Best TV series). Jimmy Hunt, who portrays Forbes’ son, “Tommy,” later starred as “David MacLean,” the kid who witnesses the alien invasion in Invaders from Mars (1953). 

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