Here's a DVD release for what many consider Mickey Rooney's finest. Quicksand marked a change for the pint-sized, baby-faced gent: goodbye frisky musical and comedy capers, and hello harrowing film noir, and altogether more serious roles. Here Rooney plays everyman Dan Brady - an engineer with an eye for the girls and a serious dose of misfortune.

Quicksand has been labelled by some critics as one of the most harrowing film noirs going. It's not - mushy peas have been know to be more hard-boiled. If anything, Irving Pichel's drama is daintily fable-like. The moment Dan puts his hand in the till, his card is marked. In trying to dig himself out of financial and legal trouble, he only creates a bigger hole. Throw in a femme fatale (Jeanne Cagney), an expensive mink coat and an uncompromising arcade shop owner (Peter Lorre), and things quickly turn all too tricky for poor Mickey.

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Pichel slowly builds up the pace and sobers the tone as Dan's life unravels. Forget the similarly-named TV double-act; Cagney and Lorre offer alluringly amibiguous characters, ones who all too easily undermine our well-meaning hero. It's doubtful whether Quicksand reflects the social uncertainty of the period, as some have claimed, but it certain proves the danger that slick operators offer to a gullible dufus like Dan. His descent is an enjoyable, if cloyingly predictable, fall from grace.

DVD and classic black-and-whites always have made for odd bedfellows: the ravenous detail of the former clangs inelegantly against the graceful simplicity of the latter. That said, it's appropriate that the best pre-Technicolours be available in all the main formats, and with DVD currently king of the home-entertainment castle, Quicksand's release is fully worthwhile.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2009
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An engineer's life spirals out of control after he steals from his employers.
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