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This is excellent example of film noir: almost everything you'd want in
this genre. Right from the opening shot, this had noir written all over
it by cinematographer Bert Glennon, and from opening holdup-murder
scene at the gas station, you knew you were in for a rough ride.
Speaking of "rough," I can't think of too many actors who were better and more suited for noir than Sterling Hayden, who delivers yet another uncompromising hard-headed, tough- guy character. This time he's a cop, "Det. Lt. Sims," and one with no use for any "con," even if the guy (in this case, Gene Nelson's "Steve Lacey") has cleaned up his act.
It wasn't just the photography and Haden, the entire cast was fascinating, and it's simply a fast-moving, entertaining film. Andre de Toth's direction also was terrific. He directed only one other noir: Pitfall, another great film that we are still waiting to see on DVD. At least this film finally made it to disc.
I had forgotten what classic beauty Phyllis Kirk possessed. Wow, what a face! She starred as "Nora Charles" on the popular "Thin Man" television series in the '50s. In here, she plays Lacey's wife "Ellen." Rather that going through the whole cast, I'll just say it was a hoot to see Timothy Carey again, even if his role was limited. This guy played the most whacked-out minor characters I've ever seen in movies. (See "The Killing" for a good example of what I mean.) Jay Novello as the veterinarian ex-con also was really interesting.
I'll tell you what else was nice: the realistic scenes with actual locations around Los Angeles in the early '50s. This movie had a number of hand-held camera shots. Even the holdup in the bank was done in a real bank. There are few, if any, hokey studio shots in this movie. It's the real deal..... and very much recommended. Combined with "Decoy" on the same disc, it makes for a nice double--feature for a night of noir.
Simply one of the best hard boiled noir films I have seen. Sterling Hayden is, as usual, excellent, while a very young Charles Bronson is surprisingly good as a 'punk' hood. Seems to feature nearly all scenes as location, or hand-held camera and it seems at times like a particularly effective episode of a 50s TV cop show - except that the content is much more brutal and sharp. This is a dark, dark film both in storyline and in the quite brilliant photography. I'd really love to see this neglected classic come out on a restored print on DVD. Isn't it time Criterion updated their 'noir' list? This cries out for restoration and a re-release.
I was lucky enough to see this little slice of film crime noir at the LACMA during the weekly Tuesday Matinée, and let me tell you, but for all the old ladies and grandpas in the theater I felt I had been transported back to the golden age of Los Angeles Film Noir. This title ranks up there with White Heat as one of the best crime thrillers using the City of Angels as its locale. After renting Kubrick's The Killing on DVD I jumped at the chance to see another heist film with Sterling Hayden, in my opinion the meanest S.O.B. Noir actor. He is awesome as usual in this movie with his characteristic scowl frozen on his face. Also for a film made half a century ago it has remarkably stood up to the test of time quite well. It's really a lean, mean little crime thriller. Please whoever owns the rights to this gem, release this forgotten classic on DVD!! You still have the chance to release a 50th anniversary edition this year!!
It's too bad Andre De Toth didn't contribute more to the noir cycle, because on the evidence he was a natural (plus he was married to early-noir icon Veronica Lake). The Pitfall, made in 1948, looks more and more like one of the best, and most central, movies in the cycle, but (except for the early, more gothic Dark Waters) De Toth only returned to it once, with Crime Wave. Its story is not a fresh one: an ex-con trying to go straight (Gene Nelson) is coerced by circumstances to aid and abet a gang of his former cellmates. The uncomfortable spot he finds himself in lies between them and the law, personified by Sterling Hayden as a tough, unforgiving police detective. There's much more attention to character in the film's hour-and-a-quarter running time than in many full-length features of the era; Jay Novello, as an alcoholic veterinarian who doubles as an underworld sawbones, is especially memorable. By any reckoning Crime Wave is a minor film -- even a minor second feature -- but De Toth lavishes easy expertise on it; it's surprisingly well paced, well shot, as well interestingly cut. Why so many talented directors (many of them refugees from Europe) were relegated, in the 1950s, to "genre" movies -- crime dramas, 3-D schlockfests and westerns -- is a puzzle. In any case, I'd give any three of De Toth's westerns AND his House of Wax for just one more film noir boasting his directorial credit.
This is one of those minor, but very enjoyable pictures that can easily
by unnoticed. It isn't easy to find, and most Film Noir enthusiasts are
familiar only with the title. But "Crime Wave" deserves to be seen by fans
of the Noir or crime film genres. It's a terrific example of the
lower-budget type of dramas that studios were turning out in the 1950s.
only major star is Sterling Hayden, who gives his usual acceptable
performance, here as a disgruntled law enforcer. Gene Nelson, probably
better known for musicals, is an interesting and successful choice for the
protagonist, a man caught between good and evil. There's also an
entertaining tough-guy type played by Charles Bronson.
What really distinguishes "Crime Wave" is its extensive use of Los Angeles locales. Apparently, location shooting was done to save money on sets, but with the passage of time, movies like this become documents of the way a city looked and operated in a past period. A number of scenes take place on busy LA streets and they lend a good deal of excitement to the proceedings.
With any luck, this picture will become available on video for more to see. It's the kind of movie that has the effect of reading a good pulp crime novel or story.
"You know, it isn't what a man wants to do, Lacey, but what he has to
do. Now you take me. I love to smoke cigarettes, but the doctors say I
can't have them. So what do I do? I chew toothpicks. Tons of 'em."
Developed as The City is Dark and shot as Don't Cry, Baby before being
released as Crime Wave, Andre de Toth's still surprisingly tough police
procedural is a film that wears its economy as a badge of pride.
Offered a big budget and a 35-day shooting schedule if he made it with
Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner, de Toth held out for Sterling Hayden
even though it mean a fraction of the budget and a 15-day shooting
schedule and still managed to come in ahead and shoot the film in
only 13 days. It was worth sticking to his guns. The film may have made
little splash when it opened in 1954, but it's a near classic that
fully deserves its growing reputation, and as the hardboiled cop who's
all-knowing judge and jury, Hayden so effectively strides through the
film like a colossus in a towering performance (literally: for much of
the film he's shot from low angles) that it's impossible to imagine
Bogart as being anything but a comparative disappointment in the role.
The kind of guy who doesn't need doors because he can walk through
walls, he doesn't act tough he IS tough. He's practically the
blueprint for L.A. Confidential's Bud White, and it's no surprise that
James Ellroy is a big fan of the film, sharing an entertaining,
occasionally expletive-deleted audio commentary with Eddie Muller on
Warner's Region 1 DVD.
The plot is simple enough: a trio of escaped cons (Ted de Corsia, Charles Bronson when he was still Charles Buchinsky and Ned Young) kill a cop when robbing Dub Taylor's gas station for eating money and involve innocent parolee Gene Nelson, leaned on by cops and crooks alike, in their escape plans. But the execution is what raises the bar here, particularly in the first third when the police bring in all the usual suspects. Shot in an almost verite documentary style, the film has a great look thanks to Bert Glennon's striking cinematography deep focus, harsh blacks and bright fluorescent whites often sharing the same frame, with such a stark photojournalistic realism that some of the setups could pass for Weegee's classic crime scene photos. It captures the feeling of L.A. at night like almost no other film, with outstanding location work and an unforgiving eye for human weakness and hopeless cases. It certainly takes some of the shine off Kubrick's subsequent The Killing it certainly got there first in terms of its look, and it's probably no accident that Kubrick hired two of the cast for his own caper movie.
While its undoubtedly Hayden's movie, the supporting cast is for the most part exceptionally strong and well-drawn. Nelson is convincing enough as the bitter ex-con caught in the middle that it's a shame that the former dancer didn't go on to anything more interesting than directing some of Elvis' worst movies, Phyllis Kirk makes more of an impression as his wife than the script would lead you to expect while Jay Novello makes a big impact as a drunken horse doctor who hates people but loves dogs and has no scruples about rifling a corpse's pockets for services not rendered. Not everyone is quite so good, unfortunately: Bronson overdoes his dumb thug and a wildly miscast Hank Worden is barely able to deliver his lines as Nelson's airport boss (is there anyone you'd feel LESS safe being in charge of airplane maintenance than Hank Worden?). As for Timothy Carey's truly amazing display of psychotic tics as the last guy in the world you'd want to leave your wife with well, since all his directors maintained Carey was never acting but really WAS like that offscreen as well, we can let that slide.
The film does briefly give into sentimentality at the end though very, very begrudgingly and it's never quite as good as that powerhouse first third, but it's certainly a sharp punch below the belt to the cop movie that you won't forget in a hurry. Along with a brief adulatory featurette with various noir historians and Oliver Stone waxing lyrical about the film, the DVD also includes the original trailer introduced by an in-character Hayden telling us "Murder is my business and midnight is my beat." Great stuff.
An American Cinematheque presentation at The Egyptian.
A great little 'second feature' noir. Hayden is brilliant as the tough and cynical cop willing to break any rule to catch a couple of cop killers, and Phyllis Kirk oozes B-movie sex-appeal as the good-girl caught in the middle. With some genuinely funny dialogue, solid performances all round, and wonderful location filming around downtown Los Angeles, Chinatown and Glendale, the movie is a brilliant testament to the quality of so many cheap post-war crime thrillers. Of particular interest is the location filming inside the LAPD offices and dispatch room in City Hall.
Charles Bronson plays a tough-guy killer in an early supporting role. Timothy Carey shows up to chew the scenery as a bizarre, bog-eyed, dope-fiend, rape-o. And there's a great car chase through the Downtown city streets at night.
A minor classic. Entertaining throughout.
And we fans of film noir prize nastiness and cold-heartedness. We also
like small movies.
Gene Nelson is very affecting as a parolee who is dragged into a crime against his will. Phyllis Kirk is fine as his wife. She doesn't add much flavor but she's believably loyal.
For flavor, we have none other than Timothy Carey! He is one of the bad guys. Charles Bronson, early in his career, is another. Carey adds a great deal of creepiness to the goings-on.
Sterling Hayden is excellent as the cynical cop who's called in. Though the plot tells us nothing about him other than that he's given up smoking and misses it, he is clearly not a warm human being. His eyes squint and shift. He doesn't trust anyone and it's very possible he doesn't like much of anyone, either.
The movie begins with Dub Taylor as an exceptionally goofy gas station attendant. He's like a character from the "Ma and Pa Kettle" series. But our villains knock him out and rob him, which is a jarring contrast.
The characters are very well drawn in "Crime Wave." It has a tough plot but the people are what elevates it to a high status.
Short film that doesn't waste a moment. Life is short and hard in this film. Make one mistake and you're marked for life, at least that seems to be Sterling Hayden's motto. Gene Nelson gives a good performance as a man haunted by his past. Steve Lacey is so scarred by his past that it runs his current life, this eventually leads him into trouble. Andre De Toth keeps most of the film in the shadows and only a few scenes take place during the day. Even the climatic robbery is shot in the dark. The only false note is that Hayden's character doesn't act the same throughout the movie. I found the movie to be pretty brutal for the time and Charles Bronson did a good job portraying most of the brutality. All in all, a worthy entry in the film noir genre.
I just love these type films and I had never heard of this one--thank you to
the Mystery Channel.
Great performances all around, and for once I liked this performance of
Sterling Hayden!! Normally, I can't stand him, as he seemed to play the same
character in every film I have seen him in.
Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk were also excellent,who would have thought they
could do such acting and the cinematography is really something to see--I
always wonder when seeing these films, just how many of the buildings are
This is a great little film--be sure and catch it if you ever see it on the
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