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>
Author of the original short story Ernest Hemingway liked the film. Prior to its release, producer Mark Hellinger sent publicity man Al Horwits to Sun Valley, Idaho, to give Hemingway a private screening. Hemingway had a pint of gin in one pocket of his overcoat and a pint of water in the other so that he could sip from them if the film got bad. After the screening, Hemingway held up the full bottles, grinned and said "Didn't need 'em". See more »
When Reardon goes to visit Lubinsky, it's clear that neither Lubinsky nor his wife have been informed of The Swede's death. By the end of their conversation, Lubinsky talks about having claimed The Swede's body and informs Reardon that the burial is later that day. See more »
This is a beautifully made improvisation on a Hemingway story that screenwriters Tony Veiller, John Huston and Richard Brooks, along with director Robert Siodmak, have somehow turned into baroque film noir. The movie starts out with a couple of hired gunmen looking for a character named Swede in a small New Jersey town. They tie up some people they encounter in a diner where they expect the Swede to be, then go and look for him, as he has not turned up at his usual time. A young man they tied up breaks loose and goes and warns the Swede, who thanks him but does nothing, remaining in bed, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the killers to show, which in time they do. The rest of the movie is an exploration, conducted by an insurance investigator, into the murky issue of why the Swede allowed himself to be murdered, and who ordered the killing in the first place.
I can't say the movie's exploration of the Swede's character runs deep, or even that it's satisfactory in its psychology. It works so well because it's excellently written, photographed (by Woody Bredell), and acted (by Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien and Albert Dekker, among many others), and consists of flashbacks, and in some cases flashbacks within flashbacks, as its labyrinthine plot, full of double crosses and unexpected turns, drives the film with a relentless urgency that in the end has less to do with psychology than the workings of fate. There is an overwhelming feeling in this film that people behave the way they do because they are driven by forces they cannot understand. In this sense the story in itself is, as presented, shallow and depressing, and yet the movie is so well-crafted, with the action at times seeming to be choreographed, that the end result is akin to an existential roller-coaster ride, if not much to think about.
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