In this superb adaptation of David Goodis' novel, a man (Ray), evidently on the run in California, befriends a girl (Bancroft) in a bar, but thinks (wrongly) she has set him up for two men on his tail. Dogging his footsteps for some months now, an insurance investigator (Gregory) wearily mulls over the case with his wife (Brando): the man is wanted for murder back in Chicago, but... 'he grows on you; it's almost like he needs protection'. A series of flashbacks, as beautifully placed and paced as in Out of the Past, prove the aptness of this description of the characteristic Goodis hero, perfectly incarnated by Ray as a large, friendly dog baring its teeth under threat. He was, we learn, an innocent bystander framed for murder by two bank-robbers - one sadistically trigger-happy (Bond), the other curiously ambivalent (Keith) - who think he knows the whereabouts of the $350,000 which went astray somewhere in the mountains of Wyoming. With nicely unforced symbolism (Burnett Guffey's camerawork is terrific throughout), the dark urban streets give way to wide open snowscapes as he embarks on a desperate quest for his lost innocence. A minor film compared to Out of the Past, perhaps, but no less gripping.
Cast and crew