Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Lust Less Ordinary: Revisiting Bart Tare's Problem

Fig. 1. Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) and Bart Tare (John Dall) in Joseph H. Lewis' Gun Crazy, 1950

'Bart Tare (John Dall), the protagonist of Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1950), has a problem. He is afflicted - or so we are told - with a ‘dangerous mania for guns’. His once anodyne passion for firearms has mutated into a pathological lust. He must therefore be taught how to curb his aberrant desire, as well as his narcissistic insistence on gratification, in accordance with the rule of law. Consecutive stints in reform school and the army almost do the trick. After meeting Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), however, his tenuous rehabilitation comes fatally unstuck. Bart’s failure - the source not only of incessant angst, but also of escalating thrills - furnishes him, and the film, with their narrative and emotional trajectories. These, in turn, reveal Bart’s problem to be a toxic medley of ingrained psychosocial, affective, and existential ailments. More, though, needs to be said about the analogical relation between Bart’s acute moral incoherence (his real “disorder”) and the performative heterogeneity of Gun Crazy’s transgressively idiosyncratic form.'

Lucio Crispino (from A Lust Less Ordinary: Revisiting Bart Tare's Problem in Gun Crazy, 1950)