I often feel that if my user comments on this website are to achieve any purpose, it will not be by scribbling yet another eulogy on "The Third Man" or toppling the sacred cow of "Citizen Kane"; rather should I be drawing attention to little known films that have excited me in the hope that they may be discovered and find other admirers. "Skip Tracer" is a classic example of one that seems to have sunk without trace (excuse the pun) possibly because it was made in the wrong place (Canada has a great tradition of French-Canadian cinema, but Vancouver is outside this scene), at the wrong time (the '50's was the decade when they made films like this) and contains no familiar faces. How else to explain the neglect of a work that I honestly believe to be a near-masterpiece! Significantly the only other user comments are from UK viewers who seemed to have discovered it as I did when it got an airing on British TV in the early '80's. The central character, John Collins, is a debt chaser for a loan firm in Vancouver. It is an occupation that demands single-minded toughness and a complete suppression of moral feeling or any form of human pity. Collins appears to have what it takes to make it as he has already amassed several "man of the year" awards in a row, but slowly little chinks in his armour appear such as the time when he advises an elderly prospective client who needs a loan for his wife's kidney treatment to look to a bank instead. "Skip Tracer" is about Collins's odyssey towards a form of moral salvation, not a quest he actively seeks, but rather something foisted on him as he becomes increasingly more sickened by what he is doing. Not only is David Peterson's performance wonderfully sustained, he is supported by two perfectly contrasted colleagues, the hard-bitten middle-aged Leo who has completely suppressed any desire to be liked to the extent that he can say anything to anyone - even verbally abusing a strip dancer as she performs in public, and the gangling, inexperienced and rather effeminate young Brent, who fails to make his quota as he has not got it in him to be nasty enough. The scene where he visits Collins in hospital after Collins has been beaten up by a client is as great a scene between two men facing a moral divide as one is likely to see outside the Brando/Steiger conversation in the cab in "On the Waterfront". That one can mention "Skip Tracer" in the same breath as Kazan's masterpiece gives some idea of its extraordinary quality. Both are about men whose gradual awareness of what they are gives them the strength to transcend what they might become.
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