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A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.
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Homicide Capt. Finlay finds evidence that one or more of a group of demobilized soldiers is involved in the death of Joseph Samuels. In flashbacks, we see the night's events from different viewpoints as Sergeant Keeley investigates on his own, trying to clear his friend Mitchell, to whom circumstantial evidence points. Then the real, ugly motive for the killing begins to dawn on both Finlay and Keeley... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Edward Dmytryk opted to use a noir lighting style because of its inexpensiveness and the fact that it was very quick to set up. This explains why the film only took 20 days to shoot. See more »
As Finlay breaks the window with his gun, large pieces of broken glass are still visibly hanging in the window frame. In every subsequent shot of Finlay at the window, there is no broken glass hanging from the window frame. See more »
Police Captain Finlay:
The murderer's hate is like a gun. He had to be someone who could hate Samuels without knowing him. It had to be inside the killer.
See more »
Unlike most film noir, Edward Dmytryk's Crossfire, adapted from a novel by Richard Brooks, is not nearly as concerned with its murder mystery, which, at first sight, might seem superficially formulaic to the casual viewer, as it is with the complex motives of its characters and the oppressive ambience of its accurately rendered post-WWII setting, evoking feelings of disorientation, loneliness and entrapment. Under its classic noir exterior, it is about hardened and aloof veterans' struggle with postwar reintegration, utterly unable or unwilling to put their traumatic experiences behind them, and about their desperate attempt to redefine their goals. For those who define themselves by who their enemies are, such as hateful loner Montgomery (the brilliant Robert Ryan), this necessitates establishing a new one, a role filled here by Jewish intellectual Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), who becomes the regrettable victim of a senseless hate crime.
At first the film appears to simply be going through the motions: After the ambiguously shot opening murder scene all evidence points, for reasons I cannot presently remember, to Corporal Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper). Captain Finley (Robert Young) investigates and is soon joined by the idealistic Sergeant Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum), who is certain of Mitchell's innocence. Two minor military characters, Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) and Bill Williams (Richard Benedict) are also somehow involved. Monty murders the former, while the latter, after a stern, Hugh Beaumontesque talking-to, reluctantly aids Finley and Keeley in setting a trap for the dastardly ne'er-do-well. Or perhaps it was the other way around -- I watch so many movies that Bowers and Williams might as well have been stranded in the South Seas and mistaken for Gods by the natives. Or, possibly, they have to spend a night in a haunted house before they can claim their inheritance, where they find a monkey that can play baseball and helps the local team win some games. At any rate, there's also the obligatory femme fatale Ginny Tremaine (Gloria Grahame) and a compulsive liar (Paul Kelly, delivering a wonderful performance) who might or might not be her husband, and exists mostly for local color and comic relief.
However, the real meat of the piece is the complex characterization of the veteran archetypes. Mitchell, for instance, suffers from a classic case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (often also referred to as `shell shock,' `war neurosis' or `combat stress') and, like many suffering from this condition, is taunted and branded as a coward by his fellows. He has become utterly self-loathing and fears the return to normalcy. The scene in which is wife finally gets him to confront these fears and enables him to return to her (and his art) is one of the film's many highlights. Then there's Peter Keeley, perhaps the most positive military archetype on display here: the natural born leader. He is extremely charismatic and persuasive, has great concern and compassion for his fellow soldiers, and manages to bring out these qualities in others. It is Keeley's considerable understanding of both human nature and his compatriots' dilemma that makes him so valuable to Captain Finley, the only other character of equivalent moral fiber. Their polar counterpart is Montgomery, a sadistic, racist bully who vents his frustrations by mocking and humiliating his fellow men. Left without an enemy, he creates elaborate rationalizations to justify his hate for a substitute. This really could be the member of any marginally different group (in the novel, I am told, the victim is a homosexual), but in this case it happens to be a Jew. While one's initial reaction might be that Montgomery obviously fought on the wrong side during the war, it is important to remember that, at the time, anti-Semitism was far from limited to Nazi Germany. Indeed, after World War One, the financial and societal crisis of the Great Depression caused anti-Semitism to reach its zenith, and violent attacks on Jews were quite commonplace in many major cities. Later, the U.S. refused entry to countless German-Jewish refugees, interpreted by Hitler as a clear sign of approval for his Final Solution.
Still, as Captain Finley correctly points out, practically anyone would have done as a victim for someone like Montgomery.
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