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Act of Violence (1948)

Passed  |   |  Thriller, Film-Noir, Drama  |  21 December 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 2,691 users  
Reviews: 49 user | 22 critic

An embittered, vengeful POW stalks his former commanding officer who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp..



(screenplay), (story)
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Title: Act of Violence (1948)

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Complete credited cast:
Berry Kroeger ...
Taylor Holmes ...
Harry Antrim ...
Connie Gilchrist ...


War veteran Frank Enley seems to be a happily married small-town citizen until he realises Joe Parkson is in town. It seems Parkson is out for revenge because of something that happened in a German POW camp, and when a frightened Enley suddenly leaves for a convention in L.A., Parkson is close behind. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's the only one that came out alive ... and now he wants my life ... to atone for the others' See more »


Passed | See all certifications »





Release Date:

21 December 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Akt der Gewalt  »

Box Office


$1,290,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was entered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1949. See more »


When Enley and his wife are awakened by the child's nightmare, the time on the nightstand clock is about 2:25. Later, she's awakened when Enley leaves, but the time has gone back to 1:25. See more »


Johnny: [giving Enley a drink] Put hair on your chest!
Frank R. Enley: [he sighs and looks confused and disoriented] Who are you?
Johnny: Me? I'm a businessman. You and me are gonna do a little business. You got dough, friend?
[looking at Pat]
Johnny: That's why they hang around - on the chisel. But not me. I'm gonna earn it!
See more »


Referenced in American Grindhouse (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Appointment with Retribution
21 July 2006 | by (Van Buren, Arkansas) – See all my reviews

"Act of Violence" is the penultimate noir film, containing many key elements that made the genre so formidable. Coming a year before Carol Reed's classic "The Third Man," the imagery of the tunnel as a symbol for the search for redemption is presented already full blown by Fred Zinnemann. The effective utilization of urban nocturnal sounds in place of music punctuate the mood of desperation and hopelessness like a sharp knife slashing the soul asunder. What can be more lonely than a distant train whistle in the middle of a dark night? Or wind whistling through the eves of houses occupied by deserted, lost individuals? No place is as desolate as the empty streets of a large city in the wee hours of morning just before dawn. Zinnemann and his superb cameraman, Robert Surtees, provide these chilling images plus so much more.

Who can forget Frank R. Enley (Van Heflin at his best) escaping from his demons, not just limping Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) or bad boy Johnny (Berry Kroeger), through a vacant tunnel screaming at the top of his lungs, "Don't do it, Joe...Don't...." Or the scenes of Joe running down oppressive stairways to get away from the specters that haunt him. His actions are not enough to justify recompense. Recompense comes only at the end of the film, not a closing that most would want or expect in a Hollywood film of the day, but the required one for the theme of the story.

The entire cast of "Act of Violence" is first rate, giving performances worthy of recognition, but veteran actress Mary Astor as the lost soul, Pat, who takes an ambivalent attitude toward Frank, runs away with the show. She portrays despair and desperation writ large. Pat's human side wants to help Frank, to free him of the hell hounds nipping at his heels. But the survival part of Pat wants to throw him to the wolves for a pittance. A telling scene occurs when Johnny nonchalantly dashes a drink into her face for attempting to aid Frank. She reacts in an impassive manner, as if this were a daily occurrence. Pat is perennially at the mercy of men who treat her like trash. She views life the same way she views men.

One other performance of note comes from Taylor Holmes as Gavery, the aged shyster lawyer. Holmes makes his small part shine, becoming the epitome of an intelligent, educated professional, corrupted by greed and ego. His surroundings suggest Gavery is debarred, now living on funds extorted or purloined from illegal activities. Johnny, played to perfection by Berry Kroeger, is a crude, immoral mental dwarf ruled by emotion and violence, a counterpart to Holmes who uses punks such as Johnny to do the dirty work and be the patsy if caught. Johnny is also a foil for Joe who seeks to kill Frank for moral, altruism reasons.

The script by Robert Richards from a story by Collier Young is not much and would have withered on the vine in the hands of a journeyman director. Fred Zinnemann and cinematographer Robert Surtees breathe life into the routine story to make it one of the best noir thrillers of them all, innovative and entertaining. A leading citizen of a small town, Frank Enley, is being stalked by a former army buddy, Joe Parkson, because of an incident that took place in a German POW camp that led to the death of several fellow soldiers. Joe was left for dead but miraculously survived to hunt down the informer, Frank, and kill him. Frank attempts to escape by hiding out in a seedy section of Los Angeles. He meets a fellow creature of the night, Pat, who introduces him to a hit-man, Johnny. While drunk and out of his mind, Frank makes a deal with the devil. Realizing too late what he has done, Frank rushes to stop the inevitable.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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