Dark Past, The (1948): Rudolph Mate’s Psychological Noir Thriller, Starring William Holden, Nina Foch, and Lee J. Cobb

Rudolph Maté directed The Dark Past, a simplistic psychological noir thriller, though it is well acted by William Holden, Nina Foch, and Lee J. Cobb.

he Dark Past
The Dark Past movie poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Grade: B- (**out of *****)

Released in 1948 by Columbia Pictures, is a remake of “Blind Alley” (1939), also released by Columbia, and based on a play by James Warwick.

Escaped killer Al Walker (William Holden) takes hostage a psychoanalyst, his young family and friends are taken hostage by a gang led by an  The doctor gets the killer to talk to him in order to find out the killer’s unconscious motivation for evil.

Walker, the gang leader, then relates a dramatic dream he’s been having since childhood.  His crimes are then traced back to his childhood and to the lack of parental guidance.

In the end of the long night, the doctor has calmed the killer’s murderous rage and prevented any further mayhem.

Before he became typecast as an all-American rebellious hero, Holden played a variety of roles, including the dream-shackled gunman who is motivated by contradictory impulses–he’s  ruthless, nervous and dangerous but he also (grudgingly) complies with the doctor’s ‘screwball’ tactics.

Lee J. Cobb, usually the heavy, plays the more “positive” part, the unflustered scientist who claims he’s dedicated to ” curing people not killing them.”  Nina Foch is also creditable as as the gangster’s moll, who learns he’s suffering from an Oedipus complex.

Spoiler Alert

Using an overly simplistic psychologistic and psychoanalytical concept, at the end of this verbose mumbo jumbo,  it boils down to Cobb’s therapist resolving the case by telling Holden’s criminal: “Every time you kill a man, you’re killing your father.”


William Holden as Al Walker
Nina Foch as Betty
Lee J. Cobb as Dr. Andrew Collins
Adele Jergens as Laura Stevens
Stephen Dunne as Owen Talbot
Lois Maxwell as Ruth Collins
Berry Kroeger as Mike
Steven Geray as Prof. Fred Linder
Wilton Graff as Frank Stevens
Robert Osterloh as Pete
Kathryn Card as Nora



Directed by Rudolph Maté
Produced by Buddy Adler
Written by Malvin Wald and Oscar Saul; screenplay by Philip MacDonald, Michael Blankfort, Albert Duffy, based on the 1935 play, “Blind Alley,” by James Warwick
Music by George Duning
Cinematography Joseph Walker
Edited by Viola Lawrence

Production and distribution: Columbia Pictures

Release date: December 22, 1948

Running time: 75 minutes


TCM showed the movie on August 15, 2020, as a part of tribute to Nina Foch.


Films directed by Rudolph Maté

It Had to Be You (1947)

The Dark Past (1948)

D.O.A. (1949)

No Sad Songs for Me (1950)

Union Station (1950)

Branded (1950)

The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951)

When Worlds Collide (1951)

The Green Glove (1952)

Sally and Saint Anne (1952)

Paula (1952)

The Mississippi Gambler (1953)

Second Chance (1953)

Forbidden (1953)

Siege at Red River (1954)

The Black Shield of Falworth (1954)

The Violent Men (1955)

The Far Horizons (1955)

The Rawhide Years (1955)

Miracle in the Rain (1956)

Port Afrique (1956)

Three Violent People (1956)

The Deep Six (1958)

For the First Time (1959)

Revak the Rebel (1960)

The 300 Spartans (1962)

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)