'C'-Man (1949) Poster


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Beneath its tacky veneer, a gritty and audacious New York crime movie
bmacv11 May 2003
When his best friend is murdered in pursuit of jewel smugglers, customs agent Dean Jagger finds himself assigned to track down the killers and close the case. He flies to Europe in order to catch a return flight on which a chief suspect (Réné Paul) will be traveling. Before boarding, Jagger makes the acquaintance of a war-bride (Lottie Elwen), journeying to America to join her fiancé.

During the night flight across the Atlantic, Elwen falls `ill;' (she's been drugged on board by soused-up sawbones John Carradine, working for the smuggling ring). From the airport, she's whisked away in a hijacked ambulance, wearing a priceless necklace. There's a traffic crash, and she escapes to flee (she thinks) to her waiting fiancé; alas, the groom-to-be has been murdered as well, by one of Paul‘s myrmidons, vicious hothead Harry Landers. Jagger meets her there, thinking she's an accomplice; when he comes to trust her, he goes undercover to penetrate the operation....

C-Man is a New York story told in the warts-and-all, in-your-face style of the following year's The Tattooed Stranger or Guilty Bystander (the latter also directed by Joseph Lerner) – a low-down, dirty town. The location shooting takes us to as many liquor stores as Ray Milland patronized in The Lost Weekend (Jagger is tracking down Carradine, who has a taste for pricey Benedictine), to jazz cellars and fleabag hotels (the one `penthouse' we visit is dowdily middle-class). Part of the grunge can be laid to a desperately low budget, but the filmmakers turn their liabilities into pungent atmosphere.

They also take some chances. One bludgeoning murder in this unusually brutal movie turns almost abstract, like an experimental film; the striking score by Gail Kubik (who by the way is male) evokes mid-century avant-garde classical music – of the `academic' school – or even third-stream jazz. The low-voltage Jagger, unfortunately, is a bit long in the tooth for the derring-do, and four-square for the lippy repartée, required of him. But beneath its tacky veneer, C-Man shows an unexpected grittiness and audacity.
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Great little lost thriller, perfect for an all night movie marathon
dbborroughs18 July 2006
Dean Jagger, a US customs agent, hunts he murderer of a childhood friend who was killed while on the trail of a stolen necklace.

Where did this movie hide for so long? Set and shot primarily in New York City this is a gritty crime drama that seems to predate many other better known films. Its raw and in your face with a documentary edge of real street s and real places. The style reminded me of the films of Orson Welles, especially a film like Mr Arkadin. It also feels like the Lemmy Caution films of Eddie Constantine and other low budget European films. There is an edge to the film making, a do what it takes attitude that produces some surprising and some violent scenes. This is not the type of film you'd expect from an American studio, certainly not in 1949.

This is one of those movies that seems a bit hokey at first but by the time ten minutes have passed you're hooked and are willing to follow the story where ever it goes just because its a good story being told in an interesting manner.

I don't know why this movie isn't better known. Certainly its not a great movie, but its a damn good one. It reminded me of the sort of movie you'd catch at 2am on the Late Late Show when you're half awake, trying to fall asleep only to fall in its clutches and stay up all night... I think I would have thought this was even better if I saw this at 2am.

This is one to see and search out (Even though at this writing IMDb lists it as unavailable Alpha Video does have it on DVD) 7 out of 10.
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offbeat but interesting indie crime-noir film
django-17 October 2002
The few who know this film are probably either hardcore film-noir completists or hardcore John Carradine fans who must have every film "the master" appeared in. I'm glad I recently had an opportunity to view the film, because it is a fascinating independently-made crime-noir film with a number of unique touches. Most of the film is shot either on location on the streets of New York or in VERY small low-budget sets. The location shooting is quite interesting, using unexpected camera angles and giving the film a kind of documentary feel--one suspects that director Joseph Lerner and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld were familiar with the Italian neo-realists. I could watch hours of this kind of footage, capturing 1949 New York, as it was experienced by people on foot, through great low-angle shots. And the musical score, by Gail Kubik, is quite avant-garde--sections of it sounding like early John Cage or Stan Kenton at his most atonal. Ms. Kubik was obviously a fine composer who adapted her avant-garde music well to a crime film--I'm anxious to hear some of her other work. Dean Jagger is not the most convincing tough guy, but he is a good enough actor to handle the expository dialogue and unnecessary voice-overs and make them sound SOMEWHAT natural! Lottie Elwen, playing a woman from Holland whom Jagger meets and who gets the mystery, such as it is, in motion, is quite seductive and was an excellent choice for the role. John Carradine can create a distinctive supporting character in his sleep, and once again he does that here as a fallen, now-crooked doctor who has had his medical license revoked (he's only in a few scenes). We should, with hindsight, give credit to the filmmakers who were obviously working on a VERY low budget, yet created a distinctive looking film and a film with lots of atmosphere. Fans of obscure noir-crime films should seek it out; although it's certainly not a flawless classic, there's something real and raw and spontaneous about it, and that quality transcends any other limitations the film has.
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offbeat gem with manic score
goblinhairedguy5 November 2005
Here's one of those B-movie nuggets that makes sifting through the dregs worthwhile (quite appropriate for a tale of jewel smugglers). I'm sure it's exactly the kind of edgy, low-budget genre-piece that inspired Godard and Truffaut to create "Breathless" and "Shoot the Piano Player".

Like its near namesake "T-Men", the heroic semi-documentary frame limns a brutal, cynical noir with striking location shooting. The narrative keeps throwing us curveballs, and the tight, off-kilter framing, low-key lighting and nervy editing emphasize the randomness of the violence and the desperation of the denizens of this demimonde. Most arresting is the frantic free-jazz score, presaging Miles Davis's improvised work for "Lift to the Gallows".

The characters are idiosyncratic and played with verve. Like several other late noirs, there is an undercurrent of homosexuality among the henchmen, and John Carradine's quack doctor is addicted to Benedictine, of all things. A great, offbeat, late-night view.
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Harsh looking film noir that helped introduce Hollywood's "New Wave"
mark.waltz7 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A mostly hand-held camera takes this gritty look at jewel smuggling between Europe and New York in the post World War II days. Dean Jagger is the agent aboard a transatlantic flight who uncovers the scheme and must venture into some of New York's slimiest locations to break the racket. This is a New York you usually don't see in movies prior to the early 1950's. It takes a while to get into the rhythm of the movie which seems like a primitive TV show, but eventually, the intrigue will grasp you like a vice inside its palm. Lottie Elwin is the heroine whose loyalties seem divided, while veteran character actor John Carradine has a minor but showy role as a drunken doctor whom Jagger first encounters on the plane and later in an extremely sleazy hotel. Not flawless by any means, this scores a higher rating by its sheer originality. Jagger, who would win an Oscar the same year for "Twelve O'Clock High", gives a very vivid portrayal of the customs agent involved in something larger than what he expected.
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This film scores a C, man
Alex da Silva25 April 2013
Customs agent Dean Jagger (Cliff Holden) goes on the trail of a necklace and a killer. He is the C-Man.

The film moves along at a quick pace and if you just go with it, it carries you along. Unfortunately, it is a little confusing at times and because the picture quality has deteriorated, some dramatically filmed sequences are confusing instead of effective. John Carradine (Doc Spencer) plays a drunkard - it's his look that carries it off for him, not particularly his acting, although he probably wasn't acting! The soundtrack alternates between the over-dramatic and the jazzy art-house cool that suggests experimental film.

There are some very fake punch-ups that run alongside disturbing violent incidents. Make sure that your bed-knobs don't unscrew! The night club scene is also slightly embarrassing - terrible song, unrealistic audience and some poor acting.

Overall, the film is watchable - it should be better, though. Maybe a re-make?
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The C that stands for Customs
bkoganbing5 February 2017
Dean Jagger who the following year would get the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Twelve O'Clock High was still sporting a toupee when he did this small independent noir film playing a US Customs Agent. Jagger is put on a case to find the killer of a fellow agent and friend. And as we know from The Maltese Falcon when a partner gets killed you're supposed to do something about it.

There's a gang that's smuggling expensive jewelry into the USA and using innocent women not in on the scam. In this case it's Lottie Elwen from the Netherlands. It's an interesting gimmick which I'll let you find out for yourself.

The film was shot entirely in New York on location and it has the same look and feel as The Naked City does. Harry Landers who later was on Ben Casey as a doctor is great as the gang's muscle. I wish we saw more of John Carradine as a disgraced doctor who is part of the smuggling scheme.

Best of all is Edith Atwater who later would play matronly and mother figures. Here she's one evil dame.

This one's a sleeper check it out.
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Huh? Not like any 'film noir' I've ever seen..
canuckteach23 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Classic Cinema, on Kodi, has a collection of films called 'Film Noir', which is the only reason I watched this entry. It had none of the requirements of that category. The protagonist, a government agent, gets beat up at least 3 times and fights like a girl - so, he ain't no Mike Hammer. There is no dark lighting, nor empty streets.

The 'plot' is supposed to be about a stolen & smuggled necklace, but we couldn't follow it. Dean Jagger, a government agent (C-Man? huh? you mean T-man as in 'treasury'?) flies to France, trying to track down 'some guy', but abruptly returns to the U.S. with a pretty French girl, who falls sick on the plane. A valuable piece of jewelry is smuggled in the ambulance with her (we think), and not-so hardnose Jagger goes after it. He is not very good, nor very tough, and he never calls for backup - so, he gets hammered around by a young hood who works for the mandatory cigarette-smoking foreigner, who asks polite questions. This was the worst 'staged-fighting' I have ever seen, so obviously the Producer couldn't afford stuntmen (too bad since both guys were wearing hats - old cowboy trick: easy to film a stand-in).

****** mini-spoiler *******

Late in the movie, a villainous damsel has a gun on poor Jagger, but can't shoot him since he is 'wrestling' with the cute bad guy (again). Jagger actually passes right by her during the jostling (I mean within a foot of the gun barrel), and she still doesn't pull the trigger, since she likes the bad guy. Then, she does shoot! Can't tell you more, but I can say it's a happy ending, and Jagger's cop buddies finally show up.

Add to the above nonsense, the appearing (and disappearing) bruises on Jagger's face after each encounter, and you can see what I am getting at: this could have been better filmed by some grade 8 kids with their daddy's camera. Pass.
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I guess I'm in the minority on this one....
MartinHafer20 February 2016
The reviews for "C-Man" are mostly very positive. However, I just saw it as a cheap little film with a ton of plot holes.

When the film begins, Treasury Agent Cliff Holden (Dean Jagger) learns that his good friend and fellow agent had been murdered. He vows to find out who's responsible and bring them to justice. Cliff blindly blunders from one situation after another where he SHOULD be killed but again and again he inexplicably survives...and there is no logical reason he isn't killed. Any film that relies this much on dumb luck and dumb criminals is second rate...and this one sure is. Additionally, some of the acting and cinematography is very second rate. In fact, nothing in particular stand out in this one, though Dean Jagger's toupee is very nice. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother with this limp little thriller that offers few thrills.
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