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Erich von Stroheim,
Mary Beth Hughes,
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George M. Cohan,
Preston Foster pressures ex-con Alan Curtis into a burglary
"Inside Job" (1946) is a film noir put out by Universal that clocks in at 65 minutes. Both Preston Foster and Alan Curtis contribute nicely to the noir ambiance. Foster plays a racketeer gangster on the lookout for easy scores. He finds one when he spots his ex-partner and ex-con Alan Curtis doing a mechanical man routine in a large department store window. Curtis had taken the rap for Foster and now is going straight with wife Ann Rutherford. Foster threatens Curtis with revealing his past to his employer and making Curtis lose his job. He wants Curtis to be the inside man in burgling the company's safe. Having lost an earlier job by a similar revelation of his past, Curtis sees no way out. He decides to do the job, feigning cooperation with Foster, but intending to keep the cash for himself and skip town with his wife. He recruits her to help him in a role outside the building and by diverting Foster. She loyally goes along. Although the heist is successful, garnering over $250,000 in cash (the equivalent of several million today), it isn't long before both the police and Foster are hunting for the couple who have holed up in an apartment house.
The mechanical man routine became an integral part of the noir "City That Never Sleeps" in 1953.
The IMDb plot summary and one reviewer have it wrong in saying that Rutherford was also an ex-convict. I've checked the movie twice and there is no such information provided in it.
This movie is not available in a cleaned-up DVD, and that is really too bad because the available secondary market print is only fair. Night scenes are murky. This movie will come across as a much better story if restored, because the visuals will make up for some of the less well done story elements. The movie really needed to be longer and/or worked over more thoroughly to develop the basic story more smoothly and properly. The movie is on the rough side plot-wise, asking us to accept some implausible behavior. Parts of the middle portion are quite static or confined, with little action from either Foster or Curtis. There's just a little too much sentimentality introduced in their relationship with a neighbor's boy and his dog. It's critical to the story to show how this relationship affects both Rutherford and Curtis, but it's not handled all that well.
Supporting roles in this film are filled by a number of familiar faces, if not names, including Milburn Stone (lead detective), Marc Lawrence (Stone's assistant), Oliver Blake (a truck driver), Joe Sawyer (a cop), Samuel S. Hinds (a judge), and John Berkes (gofer for Foster).
It was a pleasure for this noir fan to see this movie finally. I'm a fan of both Foster and Curtis, both actors with strong and distinctive voices who have no-nonsense styles but are still able to convey subtleties. Curtis was coming off a substantial role in the 1944 "Phantom Lady" and a good role in "Destiny" (1944), but the latter had been cut out of a longer movie. His career apparently was declining because his next movie "Flight to Nowhere" is not very good, even a mess as I recall. He made a good Philo Vance in several pictures in 1947. Curtis's career and life were cut short in 1953 when he died after a kidney operation. Foster's career, on the other hand, ran from 1929 to 1967, always including some substantial lead roles as in the 1935 "Last Days of Pompeii", the 1952 "Kansas City Confidential" and the interesting 1933 "Ladies They Talk About", to mention only a few.
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