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The Crooked Way (1949)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 22 April 1949 (USA)
War hero recovers from amnesia & is confronted by his criminal past.



(radio play "No Blade Too Sharp"), (screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vince Alexander
Nina Martin
Lieutenant Joe Williams
Sgt. Barrett
Charles Evans ...
Captain Anderson (as Charlie Evans)
Hazel Downs
Raymond Largay ...
Arthur Stacey, M.D.
Harry Bronson ...
Hal Baylor ...
Coke (as Hal Fieberling)
Jack Overman ...
Crane Whitley ...
Doctor Kemble / Off-Screen Narrator
John Harmon ...


A World War II veteran, suffering from amnesia but otherwise healthy, is released from a veteran's hospital, decides to return to Los Angeles to see if he can regain his identity. Trying to retrace his former steps he soon learns that he was a double-crossing gangster, and many people have reasons to wish he wasn't around...and some try to see to it that he isn't around very long...alive, at least. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Savage Story of A Guy Who Tried Going Straight On...The CROOKED WAY (reissue print ad) See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 April 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Herr der Unterwelt  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In one scene, John Payne hitches a ride in a mortuary van from a place called "Green Acres". It's coincidental that the movie's cast includes Frank Cady and Percy Helton, who both appeared on the TV series of the same name. See more »


In one scene Nina orders a "Rob Roy" cocktail, and Eddie says "the same", but the waiter brings him instead a scotch with a water-back. See more »


Eddie Rice: [to Nina Martin] Keep your lights off and the motor running.
See more »


Those Gamblers Blues
Arranged by Louis Forbes
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User Reviews

Enjoyable drama but the script and Payne fail to make good on the potential in the sweep of story and characters
14 October 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

War hero Eddie Rice returns to his home town as a result of a serious head injury that has left him with no real memory of who he is and nothing in his files that suggests where he should go. He decides to hang around ad hopefully meet someone he knows who will introduce him to another and another until his life is back in focus. What he doesn't reckon on though is that the first people to recognise him will be the police – who don't buy the idea that violent hood Eddie Riccardi has "lost his memory". This is a sentiment that gangster Vince Alexander shares when he discovers that the man who turned states evidence against him is back in town.

An interesting concept in this film. The idea that a "war hero" comes back to discover that really he was a violent criminal, a man he himself would have disliked and that he has to deal with the consequences of a past that he has no recollection of. In theory it could have been tough and morally complex and indeed I was hoping that these aspects would make for a dark and strong crime drama. In a way the actual product was both satisfying and a bit disappointing. The plot provides some good drama. It doesn't all ring true and it lacks the moral uncertainty that I had hoped for but it does still work well enough for what it is. If anything the script doesn't totally deserve Florey as director because the latter does do a solid job of working in the shadows and of framing shots to maximise the darkness within them.

The script doesn't make this same effect work within the story or characters though and indeed ethically it is perhaps too simplistic, with Eddie himself being disappointedly disconnected from his past. Of course I have to acknowledge that in this regard John Payne is miscast. He never convinces as a man struggling with anything (other than a sleepy delivery) and there is never a connection to his past in anything he does. Contrast his performance (and indeed what this film does) with Mortensen in "A History of Violence" and you can see where he and the material really don't deliver all they could (should) have done. Tufts works better but in fairness perhaps has a simpler character to pull off. He is a typically tough bad guy, full of patience and menace in his delivery – I liked his scenes but he conspires to make Payne seem weaker by comparison. Drew, Williams, Helton and others all do well enough for what is asked of them but the main expectation was on Payne and the film cannot shake the feeling that he is just not up to the task.

Overall then a solid enough drama but not up to the standard that it had the potential to be. Florey's direction works well with the cinematography (which is perhaps typical for the genre but still good) and it is just a shame that neither the script nor Payne are able to make more out of the potential within the sweep of the story and characters.

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