One of the early “visual” noirs, This Gun For Hire, based on the novel by Graham Greene, weaves a war-spy story into a taught and moody thriller, with breakthrough performances by Alan Ladd and the luminous Veronica Lake. Director Frank Tuttle, who made the first The Glass Key(1935), uses expressionist-influenced lighting to excellent effect.
This pre-noir clearly influenced French director, Jean-Pierre Melville, in his 1967 homage to film noir, Le Samourai, with Alain Delon, who shares not only Alan Ladd’s first name but an uncanny resemblance, in a similar story of a hit-man on the run. Le Samourai has a pet canary, while Ladd’s Raven has a pet cat. Even a dramatic rail bridge chase is copied by Mellville.
This Gun For Hire, is an interesting melodrama, which tries to explain the origins of Raven’s pychosis in a scene where he opens up after responding to the gentle concern of the Veronica Lake character. While to a degree dated and despite a weak supporting cast, this picture leaves you with serious questions to ponder.