John Forbes (Dick Powell) has a boring job as an insurance agent, a middle-class suburban home, a no-nonsense wife (Jane Wyatt), and a tow-headed tyke of a son (Jimmy Hunt). He’s wondering where his life has gone. In the middle of his case of “Is that all there is?” he meets a model named Mona (Lizabeth Scott) and decides to sow a wild oat without telling her he’s married. This is the slippery slope for both of them, thanks to a vicious stalker (Raymond Burr, brilliantly cold) and Mona’s jailbird boyfriend (Byron Barr).
As film noir historian Eddie Muller explains in his excellent commentary, Pitfall (1948) is an unusual noir in several respects. Powell and Scott are cast against type to a certain extent, for he spends most of the movie feeling emasculated and chastened while she plays that rare bird: a femme fatale by fate, not choice. She’s an innocent, non-scheming, good person who’s trying to make her way in the world but keeps drawing rotten luck. She sees herself as a kind of bad-luck charm, and events bear her out.