Pat O'Brien in Crack-Up (1946)

Overly Broken Up

When George Steele (Pat O'Brien) comes to he is in the office of the museum where he is art curator having kicked in the door and punched a policeman before blacking out. Convinced he was just in a train wreck despite a detective saying there was no train crash he tells those around him what happened before he broke in to the museum. With the museum owners wanting to keep things respectably quiet George is allowed to go but with no one believing him and people following him. Now the restless George seeks out proof that the train crash did happen whilst wondering whether he is going mad or maybe someone wants him to think he is.

I have an issue, when ever a movie starts with an over descriptive phrase it puts me right off, you know the sort of thing "morning had passed like the tail on a dirty grey squirrel". Okay so that doesn't make a lot of sense but that sort of descriptive phrasing might work well when it comes to the written word but it always sounds so over blown when used in a movie. Yes I know I am in the minority as those who love film noir tend to like the over blown dialogue but for me it is an issue and one which "Crack-Up" has because every time they throw in one of those over descriptive nuggets of dialogue it comes across as false, forced in to the movie to appeal not because it is needed.

The thing is that there is much in "Crack-Up" which ends up feeling wrong and more often or not it is an attempt at delivering the film noir style. One of the worst of these is a scene where George is sneaking around the basement storage room of the museum, a dark room with over head lights which seem to break all the laws so that the only thing they illuminate is George's face with everything else being thrown in shadow. I could go on because from clothes to characters everything in "Crack-Up" feels like it is trying too hard to deliver the familiar aspects of film noir rather than working them in more naturally.

The one thing which "Crack-Up" has going for it is an interesting story with that classic element of a man starting to believe that someone is intentionally trying to make them crack up. Okay so it is a little rough around the edges and forcing of the film-noir styling detracts from it here and there but it is enough to keep you watching.

What this all boils down to is that "Crack-Up" could have been an above average movie if it hadn't tried too hard to include the typical elements of film noir. As it stands it ends up a flawed movie for forcing it too much.