15 user 9 critic

Riff-Raff (1947)

Approved | | Adventure, Comedy, Drama | 15 September 1947 (USA)
A plane takes off from Peru (in a long no-dialogue scene) in a storm with two passengers; it lands in Panama with one. The missing man had valuable oil-location maps; everyone who is after ... See full summary »



(original screen play)


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Complete credited cast:
Walter Gredson
Domingues (as Jason Robards)
Marc Krah ...


A plane takes off from Peru (in a long no-dialogue scene) in a storm with two passengers; it lands in Panama with one. The missing man had valuable oil-location maps; everyone who is after them must deal with Dan Hammer, combination private eye, agent, and con man, who can "fix" anything for a fee. Nightclub singer Maxine is on Dan's side... or is she? The rest is lighthearted, white-suited tropical intrigue. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

15 September 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Riff-Raff  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The onscreen title credits reads Riffraff. See more »


[Hammer, annoyed with a bar hustler, sends him crashing into a table]
Bar proprietor: You shouldn't do that, Mr. Hammer. It gives the place a bad reputation.
Dan Hammer: You mean a worse reputation.
See more »


Referenced in Nocturne (1946) See more »


Written by Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney
Performed by Anne Jeffreys and backups
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User Reviews

The trouble with riffraff is that you don't always see them coming...
7 February 2008 | by See all my reviews

I was never taken much by Pat O'Brien, even though he appeared in many good movies since 1930. This is another good one, but not because of Pat O'Brien...

This was the first time I saw Anne Jeffreys, and for her alone it's worth seeing this film: without doubt, Jeffreys is a head-turner and heart-stopper. In reviewing her acting career, it's now clear to me why I have missed seeing her: soon after the early 1950s, she moved into TV for most of her career. And, as I have mostly avoided TV, well, there you go...

Anyway, to the movie...

I guess I'd call this type of story an adventure, a treasure hunt for black gold in the form of a missing map of oil wells in Peru, and a map that various nasty people are all trying to find. The reason for that lost map is finely drawn – on a dark and stormy night (okay, there are a few clichés along the way in this narrative) - with an exquisitely done sequence at the start, as the camera pulls back from a lizard at the edge of airfield in deepest Peru to reveal a waiting DC-3 and a small group of people trying to hear themselves think while the rain pours down on the tin roof of the terminal. Not a word is spoken, natch. Eventually, a passenger arrives to board the plane with another who'd been waiting. The plane leaves, clawing its way into the storm with the passengers sitting with the cargo. During the voyage, however, one of the passengers either jumps or is pushed from the plane – but the other passenger, Hasso (Mark Krah), now has the map...

From that point, you know there's more dirty dealings coming and, after telling his story to the cops, Hasso hires PI Dan Hammer (Pat O'Brien) to act as a bodyguard. Leaving Hasso at the hotel, Hammer visits Gredson (Jerome Cowan) who hires Hammer to find the map that Hasso now has, unbeknown to both. Hasso, being devious, hides the map in plain sight – a delightful ironic touch that's used to good effect throughout the movie, but would have been better, in my opinion, if the viewer had been kept in the dark also.

However...the plot thickens when Molinar (Walter Slezak), another treasure seeker, starts putting the squeeze on Hammer to get the map, and who roughs up Maxine (Anne Jeffreys) while trying to find it in Hammer's office where Maxine had been waiting. Maxine, you see, had wormed her way into Hammer's sight at the club where she sings – not only for herself as a singer, but as a spy for Gredson with whom she is romantically involved. Or is she? That's for Hammer to find out, along the way. Got the picture?

The denouement, of course, is fairly predictable but enlivened by Percy Kilbride as Pop, the taxi driver who shows how easy it is to run circles around unwary and over-confident crooks on the run. The whole movie is further enhanced by the dark/light cinematography that captures the Panama City scene so well (even though it's a Hollywood back-lot); indeed, the highly inventive chase at night between Hammer, on foot, and Molinar in the taxi with Pop, almost leaves you...well, breathless; and wondering whether Carol Reed chose to use the same techniques of dark shadows, narrow streets and running footsteps in The Third Man (1949) when Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) chases Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. The similarity is quite distinctive, even down to some of the skewed close-ups and sharp camera angles.

And, finally, the dialog throughout is just right: sharp, full of innuendo, devious, and witty - and every bit as good as others you've heard in great thrillers and intrigues.

Pat O'Brien does a credible job – as always – but his attempt as a hard-boiled PI and fixer doesn't quite match Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947) or the great Bogie in any one of his fine works from the 1940s or 1950s. However, I was looking at Anne Jeffreys most of the time anyway...

If you get the chance, see this one, for an enjoyable eighty minutes. Recommended for all.

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