A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
Johnny Farrell is a gambling cheat who turns straight to work for an unsettling casino owner Ballin Mundson. But things take a turn for Johnny as his alluring ex-lover appears as Mundson's wife, and Mundson's machinations begin to unravel.
Two professional killers invade a small town and kill a gas station attendant, "the Swede," who's expecting them. Insurance investigator Reardon pursues the case against the orders of his boss, who considers it trivial. Weaving together threads of the Swede's life, Reardon uncovers a complex tale of treachery and crime, all linked with gorgeous, mysterious Kitty Collins. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The film opened in New York at the Winter Garden Theatre on August 28, 1946. The first day, $10,341 was taken in at the box office, beating a previous house record by $3000. See more »
When Reardon enters the insurance company's home office, he passes by and open glass door with the company's name on it (as seen from the inside of the office). When closed, the name would be facing the inside and not towards the outside of the office. See more »
Big Jim Colfax:
[to Dum Dum]
You can leave anytime you want, friend.
[acting as peacemaker]
Come on! Easy does it, fellas! Easy does it!
I don't like to be asked to come up here and then told I can go. Who do you think you're pushin' around?
Big Jim Colfax:
A minute ago we were talkin' about reputations. Well, you've got quite a reputation yourself - you're supposed to be a troublemaker.
Big Jim Colfax:
[deliberately taking the cigarette out of his mouth]
Okay. Make some.
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Along with Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity," this is the one that established what film noir was all about.
Robert Siodmak's classic thriller, along with "Criss Cross" are two of his best pieces of work, proof positive that crime dramas could rise above the mundane and the clichéd.
Based on one of Hemingway's Nick Adams short stories, it tells the intriguing tale of two hit men who show up in a small town (the film moves it from the Midwest to New Jersey), where they take over a diner and tell its terrified occupants they intend to murder a nobody of a gas station attendant when he comes in for dinner. When he doesn't show, they hunt him down at the rooming house where he lives and do the job there. That's where the short story ends, but the script by Anthony Veiller picks it up from there, pursuing the fascinating story of what makes a man give up on life to the point where he passively waits for a pair of gunmen to show up and blow him to smithereens.
The protagonist,called the Swede, is a guy who isn't a criminal by nature, just a guy who fell upon hard times, but sees a way out by committing one more crime. And of course, as in any good film noir, his greed is fueled more by lust than anything else. There's a girl involved and in order to get her, he has to get the loot.
Burt Lancaster, in his first staring role, comes off very well here, as does Ava Gardner, also top billed for the first time. Strong supporting performances by the great Albert Dekker as the top hood and Sam Levine as a cop with a heart of gold. And we cannot forget Charles McGraw and William Conrad as two of the most frightening cold blooded killers in film history.
Siodmak does a great job in the director's chair in this Mark Hellinger (The Roaring Twenties) produced drama, but it is cinematographer Woody Bredell who steals the show. His use of lighting goes beyond spectacular. All of the clichés we think of in film noir lighting spring from this one film, where they were done right. And watch for one of the longest tracking shots in film history, as Nick Adams flees the diner and races to the Swede's rooming house to warn him. It's an amazing, unbroken shot that runs more than a minute.
Watch, too, for the brilliant shoot 'em up scene in a restaurant at the end of the movie when the two gunmen reappear. It is just a textbook blend of all the movies are supposed to be about, great acting, camera movement that means something, and brilliantly layered music by Miklos Rozsa. Film-making doesn't get any better than this.
A four star film and one of the godfathers of the genre. Don't miss this one.
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