On the Hook

It’s not that Bait applies ‘50s era morals to its story. Rather, it’s the ‘50s era judgment that causes a cringe. Poor Cleo Moore. She plays a single mother who takes the blame for being widowed, unmarried, and having a child. “No good,” says one character referring to Moore, all based on her social standing.

Bait opens with a figment of the devil (Cedric Hardwicke) besieged by autograph seekers. Everyone is a big fan. That’s the tone – the devil oversees the events, infecting and controlling these people damned to commit sin. There’s a gold mine to flush out greed; a sultry romance to spawn jealousy; the ill-fated marriage due to bring about adultery. When all that coalesces, it’s on to murder.

Moore is the source everything. Bait hates her. She’s mistreated in her job, ogled by men, abused, and rejected. Bait suggests if it weren’t for her sin of having a child out of wedlock (the paperwork was lost, she says) then good men wouldn’t turn on each other. Hugo Haas stars and directs this morality play, an untrustworthy gent hunting for a lost gold mine as if Bait were a western. Turns out, most of the plot devices call on that genre.

a misshapen and ludicrous plot of deception and want

Along for the ride is John Agar, the good-looking hero standing up for Moore but cast in a negative light. He falls under the spell of gold fever and laughs as Haas prays. Haas will spend part of the film defending the bible; Agar calls no religion his own. Dust settled, Bait ends with no hero given the actions prior and the evident flaws of each key player. The devil found a victim in everyone.

None of this considers how outrageous Bait is, concocting a misshapen and ludicrous plot of deception and want. The end game is to take the gold profits without a 50/50 split. How no one spies this plan earlier and why the villain goes through such trouble to achieve it is the height of movie absurdity. Chucking logic and closing in on the metaphor doesn’t help either.

From the opening, Bait doesn’t have a clean out. Moore’s introduction is of her on her knees, scrubbing a floor at the will of a man. She’s commanded to pump gas outside. Not long after is when she’s called “no good,” because a single mother of the ‘50s deserves nothing. Eventually, Moore reveals her husband died in combat. That’s supposed to make audiences feel bad. Yet, Bait still uses her as a romantic rubber band. Men rule all.


While not the greatest master, there’s plenty to like about Bait’s Blu-ray treatment. On a disc with two other ‘50s-era noirs inside the Noir Archive 2, compression is not a bother. Although grain is thick from a slightly older scan, never does the image appear digital. The few stray bits of dust on the print harm nothing.

Contrast sticks out, with pleasing whites in the wintry mountain location. While lacking some black level kick, gray scale varies enough to bring out some basic tier of dimension. Plus, shadows run deep enough to hide any compression or pockets of grain.

Reasonable resolution is the high spot, resolving some facial texture, mountain views, and some difficult flannel. In a lesser transfer, the latter draws aliasing or shimmer, especially with distance. Not so here.


High treble doesn’t cause issues for the DTS-HD track. Pleasant and smooth, the lack of distortion is an impressive feat given the age. Both highs and lows suffice.

Dialog rendering likewise firms up, aged naturally. A single pop is the only noted bit of damage.



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A product of the ’50s, Bait treats its one female character appallingly, even by standards of its day. That, and it’s a meager thriller.

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