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Barry Sulivan is a cynical gangster who controls the Neptune Beach waterfront. He runs a numbers racket with the local soda shop owner: the police are in his pocket and the local hoods are on his payroll.
A police detective investigating a jewel robbery discovers evidence that points to his girlfriend as the culprit, although she claims she was framed. He arrests her anyway, and she is convicted and serves several years in prison. Finally out on parole, she is soon mixed up in a murder. The detective is torn between his love for his girlfriend and his belief that she may have committed the murder. Written by
Cop Preston Foster can't stop loving Belita, but he also can't shake his suspicions of her
"The Hunted" (1948) is now available on DVD in a beautiful print, and it's a great pleasure because this has genuine noir photography to go along with its noir story. There are some awfully nice shots in this picture. An old and classic noir like this has a genuine and unpretentious feel to it.
Preston Foster really shows his acting chops in this one, and I don't mean by over-acting or by any big displays of emotion or by method acting. His style is timeless and effective. It's by delivering the lines and meaning them, and looking as if he means them, by being deadly serious when that's called for and happy when that's called for. It's all in the face and eyes, and sometimes in how he smokes. The man could act.
His co-star is Belita, and she's very good, as good as in "Suspense" (1946). Her role here is difficult. She has to convey an ambiguity between innocence and possible guilt, something that confuses Preston Foster, who is a cop and loves her. She succeeds in doing this so that we viewers participate in Foster's dilemma. Should he give in to his heart and trust her, or should he follow his job as cop and see her as having been guilty before in the past and possibly guilty again in the present?
The basic plot has Belita getting out of prison after a 4 year stretch. She declared her innocence consistently but the evidence was against her. She threatened the lives of her lawyer (Pierre Watkin) for mishandling her case and for Foster for arresting her, despite their love affair at that time. Bitter but not entirely alienated, she goes to his apartment when released and we learn the back story through a conversation sequence that's quite long but manages to work despite its lack of action. Foster helps her get work at her specialty, ice skating. He's jealous and suspicious. He confides in his bartender, George Chandler.
Their rekindled romance, hopes and dreams take a dire turn when Watkin is found dead.
Charles McGraw does a turn near the end as a rough cop in an interrogation. Tall and suave Russell Hicks is the head of detectives. Frank Ferguson is Belita's boss at the ice skating rink. Thomas Jackson, who had a key role as the cop in "Little Caesar" who pursued Edward G. and saw him die, has a bit part. Larry Blake plays a heavy; very recently I reviewed his work in the 1947 noir "Backlash" where he was the hero.
This is a well-done noir that focuses on the psychological elements that are driving Belita and Foster apart and those that are driving them together. We cannot be sure how this will turn out, although we are rooting for Belita to be innocent so that they can get together.
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