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The Thief (1952)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 15 October 1952 (USA)
A chance accident causes a nuclear physicist selling top secret material to the Russians to fall under FBI scrutiny and go on the run.

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(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Mr. Bleek (as Martin Gable)
Harry Bronson ...
Rita Vale ...
Miss Philips (as Rita Grapel)
Rex O'Malley ...
...
John McKutcheon ...
Joe Conlin ...
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Storyline

Interesting, but sometimes slow film about a nuclear physicist working in Washington DC who also spies for some unnamed foreign country. It does have a rather funny, patriotic/propagandist ending. It's most interesting aspect is that it is filmed entirely without dialogue. Written by <kelloggs@ug.eds.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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NOT A WORD IS SPOKEN! (Original print ad - all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

15 October 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hirsiz  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Thief is one of the few films with synchronized sound to be made completely without spoken dialog. See more »

Goofs

Martin Gabel's name is misspelled as "Martin Gable" in the closing credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Face of the Frog (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Steal This Movie
8 October 2007 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The Thief stands as the first American Film since Charlie Chaplin's City Lights without any spoken dialogue.

Directed by Russell Rouse this 1952 noir is a propaganda film without any of the leaden anti-Communist dialogue that other films of this type contain. In fact the film has no dialogue! It's funny how first impressions stay with you. When I first saw The Thief it was at a Film Noir series at the Film Forum Theater in New York.

The Thief stands out for its special way of objectifying the isolation of the central character with film elements such as mood-inducing lighting, scripting, and especially music.

The lack of dialogue and Ray Milland's marvelous performance visually communicating the angst and secretive nature of the lead character is something to see to appreciate.

What stands out in this film is the lack of dialogue. At the outset this motivates us to watch more closely than if we were given dialogue to help drive the action along.

With its blast of a raining phone in the very first frame of the film as the camera moves over to show us the anxious Allen Fields lying fully dressed on his bed waiting, we understand that sound and sight over spoken language is what will be the currency of this film.

Hats off to Ray Milland and the wonderful score because just as in the early films of the silent period all the plot points of the film are understood trough purely visual means, pushing the film to the level of pure cinema.

The musical score for the film that Herschel Burke Gilbert composed says volumes about the character Allen Fields, and his emotional state.

Gilbert received an Academy Award nomination for his music score for the film and one watching will tell you why. Gilbert creates swells and moods to support the facial expressions and other physical language that Milland utilizes to show us what is happening with Fields and his eroding state of mind.

The dialogue-less film is definitely a stylistic approach to this subject matter. It is very unusual but primarily because we are used to a dialogue-driven plotted film style.

The technique does begin to seem forced into the second half of the film especially in exterior scenes where one would normally hear people talking as ambient sound.

The scenes with the FBI would have some sort of dialogue, especially in those where agents are being prepped on who to investigate.

Once the viewer gets with the approach that the filmmaker is taking though, the lack of dialogue can be understood as part of the overall theme of he voice-less nature of the Spy character in films.

Some things are left unexplained though and this could have been added to create more depth in the story line. We never learn why Fields is stealing secrets for the enemy. Is he being paid? Is there a wife being held captive? These pieces of the puzzle may help. Without them the story feels poetic without substance.

Ray Milland gets extra credit for creating such a memorable performance. His Allen Fields seems cut from the same cloth as his character from The Lost Weekend, angst-driven without solution.

No one can drink whiskey or smoke a cigarette quite like Ray Milland, with his sense of exclusive attitude while simultaneously embroiled in some deep emotional turbulence.

For anyone interested in Film Noir styling taken to exceptionally expressive levels this film will show you things you may not have seen before.

The night exteriors are textbook noir examples of lighting and camera. In this case the ambient sounds of the Washington D. C. locations are contrasted well with those of the New York City locations, especially the wide shot of Milland's Allen Fields arriving in the beautiful Pennsylvania Train Station before it was demolished.

Although the interiors are stage sets there is attention paid to creating surroundings that support the 'silence' of spy Allen Fields especially the cage-like apartment where Fields waits for his final phone call.


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