The car in the film noir is a complex symbol expressing the various kinds of escape its protagonists attempt. It is also a tool of death… But as a symbol of the modern urban landscape, the car comes to mean much more: it functions as the symbol of all that has brought America to this ambiguous state of spiritual anxiety. Taunting us as the apex of industrial achievement with its commercial appeal and status, the car in the film noir has been transformed into an object of dubious distinction, like a desperado of sorts, an accomplice. Whether noir characters use it to escape their pursuers (legal or criminal) or their past, the automobile symbolizes that dangerous flight into the unknown that contrasts with its other importance as a symbol of established success in modern American culture. Desperate people steal perfectly reputable vehicles, transforming them into getaway cars, and in the act they sully the very status of material success that these object represent… In its transformation into an escape device, the car carries out one of the narrative goals of noir cinema: to bring the illusion of freedom for its characters up to its dead end—right up to the place from which they can no longer escape, and where they usually die.
- Andrew Dickos, STREET WITH NO NAME: A History of the Classic American Film Noir (The University Press of Kentucky, 2002), pp 176-177
High Wall (MGM 1946) is a film noir where cars are integral to the story and to the noir aesthetics: fast cars screeching to nowhere, dark streets, rain on asphalt, roadblocks, escape, entrapment… ‘crashing out’. Directer Curtis Bernhardt and his DP Paul Vogel in the many scenes with cars in this picture have fashioned indelibly mystic images of the noir car, as these selected frames from the movie attest: