Second Chance, 1953. 8/10

A very exotic, semi film noir. In color, no less. Second Chance starts with a literal bang, as Cappy (Jack Palance) takes care of an underling, on the trail of Clare (Linda Darnell). Russ (Robert Mitchum) has already gathered her in, meanwhile filling out the main event in the local boxing card. The setting is much more than a background, its picturesque beauty inhabits every outside scene.

The color and hum of everyday life draws the viewer in. So much so, that by the time we’re on the tram to the mountain-top village, the movie has bloomed into a romantic folk tale. The fiesta, dancing, fireworks, a wedding–but, then an eruption of violence sets us back into darker territory. Subsequently, there’s some tension with Russ and Clare. She explains her dilemma–she’s not exactly available, because she might not survive Cappy’s attempt to keep her from testifying against her ex, Spalatto. Strangely, Russ doesn’t really run up against Cappy until halfway through. 

That’s ok, since there’s three parts to the story, all linked by the tram: the initial scenes with Cappy menacing Clare; the interlude in the remote village, and the tram-drama. As cool as the tram disaster is, it’s such a melodramatic device, taking up the entire last part of the movie. Not that there isn’t much going on: not one, but two fights, a lot of bickering, fraying ropes and cables, drawing lots for rescue, etc. Not to mention, even with Cappy knocked off, we still get to see the forlorn tram tumble into nothingness, “a beautiful disaster” one guy remarks. 

In fact, the movie sort of replays its theme just in the tram sequence. The rivalry between Russ and Cappy for Clare; Cappy’s antsy demeanor versus Russ’s calm steadiness…and locals caught in the middle. The tram car itself, like a microcosm of the village/town, dangling, its precarious civilization threatened by unforeseen dangers. 

Second Chance is very entertaining, fast-paced, and visually stunning.Well-worth watching. 8/10.

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