Pitfall is a sleeper. Directed by Andre de Toth, this 1948 film noir was the first release of the small independent producer Regal Films. For many years the film was in danger of being lost. Fortunately the movie was restored in 2015 and has become widely accessible.
The film examines boredom, adultery and guilt in a middle class American family in Los Angeles after WW II. Johnny Forbes (Dick Powell) has a devoted wife, a young son, and a good if uninspiring job with an insurance company. He is bored with the routine of his life. While working on the recovery of stolen property, Johnny meets the smoky-voiced femme fatale Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott), One thing quickly leads to another. The trouble is that, in addition to Johnny's marriage, a business associate and private detective, the overweight and clumsy MacDonald (Raymond Burr) has a crush on Mona. She isn't interested.
As the film progresses, Johnny becomes deeper and deeper caught in a trap. He has jeopardized his marriage and his career with his affair and he faces retribution from the angry MacDonald and from Mona's incarcerated boyfriend. The film offers a portrayal of growing internalized guilt together with externalized danger and violence.
The film develops complex characters and explores them from the inside. The acting is convincing, from Powell to the femme fatale to the loyal wife, (Jane Wyatt}. Burr offers an excellent performance of the villainous but awkwardly sad MacDonald, bringing depth and sympathy to the part.
"Pitfall" will appeal to lovers of film noir. I was glad to be able to watch the movie and to benefit from the "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller's insightful commentary in his Noir Alley series.