Too Late For Tears (1949): Kiss of the Viper Woman

Too Late For Tears (1948)

Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart.”

From the opening scene of the silhouette of a car speeding up a winding road on a hill outside LA one dark night, you know you are in noir territory. Soon a preposterous chance event launches a wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as perverse and relentless as fate itself.

Too Late for Tears is the quintessential 40s b-picture from the obscure poverty-row studio, Hunt Stromberg Productions. A crew led by pulp director Byron Haskin has filmed a purple script from Roy Huggins (The Fugitive TV series), which has the two accomplished leads Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea as reluctant partners in locating the claim check for a suitcase containing a hot 60 grand. The husky-voiced Scott is perfect as the housewife with attitude and a gun, and Duryea relishes his established persona of the low-life chiseler making a grab for the big-time. This movie is as hard as nails. There is not an ounce of pathos or softness, just a corrosive unbending greed against which anyone is expendable.

Too Late For Tears (1948)

The noir denouement elegantly occurs in a luxury hotel suite south of the border, where the femme-fatale imagines she is home free. Hoskin’s mise-en-scene is brilliant. The loot grabbed from a suit-case clutched madly in Scott’s hands and begged at her pursuer is ultimately worthless, and her fate is sealed by that same suit-case. A fluttering of notes down onto the hotel’s driveway is her final epitaph.

Sadly, there is no decent print of this movie currently available. Don’t buy the current DVDs – they are straight transfers of a scratchy damaged print of a public domain print available free from www.archive.org. Though there is a commentary from Eddie Muller on the DVD – I trust the proceeds are going to locating and restoring a better print.

Too Late For Tears (1948)

12 Comments

  1. Hi! Tony.
    “Too Late for me” (to watch this film over there at archive.org)…because I already own a “pretty bad” copy of this film after I purchased a 6 films noir boxset. (it was included with 4 other films that are considered noir and a really “amazing” film noir bonus disc.)
    Your review sums up this film perfectly, but surprisingly,I have only watched the 1948 film Too Late For Tears twice.

    Btw, A very interesting “foreign” film poster of the 1948 film Too Late For Tears.

    Tks,
    Dcd ;)

  2. Yay. I’m a fan of this film, too, Tony, and I also am an admirer of Byron Haskin. (Who would later make The Boss and my favorite 1950s sci-fi film, The War of the Worlds.)

    Like Dark City Dame, I’m impressed by the film poster.

    I’ve seen this film twice and enjoyed the concrete guilt of its protagonists about which you write so eloquently. Your pieces on Hollow Triumph/The Scar and T-Men are most fine as well!

  3. Thanks Dcd – the poster is great – it is from Spain.

    Alexander, I will have to check out The Boss, and yes the 50s War of the Worlds is a fine movie. Welcome back to blogosphere.

  4. Unfortunately I have NOT seen this film, even though, like Alexander, I am a big fan of Byran Haskin, who also helmed the cult item ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, and maybe six episodes of one of my favorite television series, THE OUTER LIMITS. One of those episodes, THE DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND, which was written by science-fiction icon Harlan Ellison, is one of the greatest single episodes of any television series ever seen on network TV, a point that even Stephen King makes. I mention this in the context of this review, especially as the episode is dark and expressionistic, and was by the way shot in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, where BLADE RUNNER was also filmed. Haskin’s kind of talent would be a perfect fit for this noir you speak of here, and indeed, based on what you say, it is. Plus, Haskin is a proven “genre” director who brings together characteristic elements, and film noir would warrant such a calling.

    Yep, DCD, again a splendid poster here at Films Noir.net.

  5. Hi! Readers of Filmsnoir.net,

    Please ignore my quote below…
    “I already own a “pretty bad” copy of this film after I purchased a 5 film noir boxset called…5 Film Noir Killer Classics boxset. (The boxset also includes a really “amazing” film noir bonus disc.) Btw, This boxset is Oop (Out of Print)…I also own the Image version just for Eddie’s (Muller) commentary alone.”

    I was just kidding!…The copy of “Too Late For Tears” that I own is a “pretty decent” copy…I must admit the Alpha copy is the “worse” print of this film out there on the market. (Alpha as you know is “Greek” for “bad film tranfer,” but of course!)I’am so sorry! about the “little” joke!…Please forgive me! :)

    Dcd :)

  6. Sam, isn’t the Bradbury Building also the locale for the final shoot-out in DAO – see the screenshot in my review of D.O.A (1950).

    Sam, you have me intrigued. I have tracked down THE DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND on YouTube, and the quality is good:

    Parts:

    1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lImaly19Yps

    2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSZ3RdUL7Iw

    3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHzRHV_66ks

    4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJDsSHkfUcs

    5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLZkvzogsNE

    6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL-6nHFmJJk

  7. Yes, Sam, you are quite right, Haskin directed six of the finest episodes of The Outer Limits, which I continue to go through episode by episode. He directed the second and third episodes, The Hundred Days of the Dragon and The Architects of Fear. I cannot wait to see his next four, and you have especially made me wildly excited about seeing Demon with a Glass Hand!

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming… here at FilmsNoir.net… :)

  8. Alexander, I personally rank THE ARCHITECTS OF FEAR as the runner-up to DEMON among that half-dozen of Haskin’s output on the series.

    Tony, I confess to being an OUTER LIMITS “junkie” for about 43 years! I do own the box set of the 49 episodes that were filmed before ABC prematurely pulled the plug on the series in late 1964, after corporate blunders doomed the creativity that marked Season 1. Ironically, DEMON WITH THE GLASS HAND, which most serious Outer Limits devotees consider the greatest single episode (but THE SIXTH FINGER, THE FORMS OF THINGS UNKNOWN, the two-part THE INHERITORS, A FEASIBILITY STUDY, CORPUS EARTHLING, the Shakespearean THE BELLERO SHIELD, THE ZANTI MISFITS, SOLDIER, THE MAN WHO WAS NEVER BORN and a few others are top-rank) Although I have seen DEMON more times perhaps than anything in my entire life, I still accessed Tony’s You Tube links, and again watched it just now on my PC! Ha! Thanks Tony, and I assure you your intrigue may well lead to a healthy obssession! This is a philosophical, literate, expressionistic, gothic, and thought-provoking sci-fi series that launched many acting careers, and featured bravura turns by people like Robert Culp, David McCallum, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, Didney Blackmer and many others.

    But perhaps most intriguing of all, Joseph Stefano (along with Leslie Stevens) is the show’s creator. Stefano, who wrote Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, also wrote some of the show’s best screenplays.

    I have the entire set, as I mentioned, and all can be copied.

  9. Incidentally, the definitive OUTER LIMITS volume is the magnificent THE OUTER LIMITS COMPANION by David J. Schow, a large book with pictures to die for and an astute scholarly and candid examination of every episode complete with an exhaustive overview. This is one of my bookshelves’ most transient piece. It’s essential.

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