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Force of Evil (1948)

TV-PG  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Drama  |  25 December 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 3,952 users  
Reviews: 52 user | 45 critic

An unethical lawyer, with an older brother he wants to help, becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket.



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Complete credited cast:
Edna Tucker
Howland Chamberlain ...
Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)
Ben Tucker
Bill Ficco
Stanley Prager ...
Barry Kelley ...
Det. Egan
Paul McVey ...
Hobe Wheelock
Beatrice Pearson ...
Doris Lowry


Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Film-Noir | Drama


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 December 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tucker's People  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994. See more »


During a climactic montage set at an East Coast racetrack on the Fourth of July, people in the stock footage crowd scenes are dressed in winter garments nobody would wear in the middle of summer. See more »


Joe Morse: Wouldn't you like to celebrate on a really large scale, Miss Lowry?
Doris Lowry: What are you celebrating, Mr. Morse?
Joe Morse: A clear conscience.
Doris Lowry: Oh, whose?
See more »


Featured in The John Garfield Story (2003) See more »


String Quartet opus 131, no. 14: Ist Movement
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
See more »

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User Reviews

Top Marx!
23 January 2003 | by (Glasgow, Scotland) – See all my reviews

McCarthy blacklist victim Abraham Polonsky's angry and poetic film noir is perhaps the most candidly subversive picture ever made in a commercial genre, almost explicitly equating capitalism with crime in the metaphor of the numbers racket. It belongs on the face of it to the post-war-disillusionment school of American thrillers (eg The Blue Dahlia, Key Largo), in which the evils that ordinary Joes spent the war fighting turn out to be business as usual when they get back home. But what makes it so unusual is its insistence, contrary to the message of other social-comment crime thrillers of the 1940s, that it's a bad system, rather than bad people, that's to blame for the woes of the world. The fate of Mob lawyer John Garfield's decent, kind-hearted brother Thomas Gomez, a small-time policy banker, shows us what happens to good people who try to play straight in a crooked game. If the bad guys in the film turned good, Polonsky implies, they'd only get the same. Polonsky described the source novel, Tucker's People, as "an autopsy on capitalism".

Sermon over: none of the above gets in the way of a raging, doom-laden crime melo that, like a snowball, gets faster and weightier as it barrels along. Superb New York location photography, a vitriolic script, and committed, sincere performances lock our attention to every second of its 81 New York minutes. If it weren't for Gun Crazy (scripted under a front name by another dangerous pinko, Dalton Trumbo), Force of Evil would be the best film noir ever made.

16 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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