On New Year's Eve 1946, Sheila Page kills her husband Barney. She wishes that she could relive 1946 and avoid the mistakes that she made throughout the year. Her wish comes true but cheating fate proves more difficult than she anticipated.
Hit man Philip Raven, who's kind to children and cats, kills a blackmailer and is paid off by traitor Willard Gates in "hot" money. Meanwhile, pert entertainer Ellen Graham, girlfriend of police Lieut. Crane (who's after Raven) is enlisted by a Senate committee to help investigate Gates. Raven, seeking Gates for revenge, meets Ellen on the train; their relationship gradually evolves from that of killer and potential victim to an uneasy alliance against a common enemy.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I like Cats! So says the icy cold broken wrist killer!
Phillip Raven is a hit man of no obvious moral fibre, he literally will kill anyone for the right price. After fulfilling a contract for the chocolate munching Willard Gates, he finds himself pursued by the law on account that he was paid by Gates with stolen money. Raven sets out for the ultimate revenge and dovetailing towards the explosive finale with him is sultry conjurer Ellen Graham and honest cop Michael Crane.
Based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun For Sale, this is not a straight out adaptation, the plot has been re-jigged with very impressive results. The most enlightening thing I found when reading up on the film was that the studio were so blown away by the efforts of Alan Ladd as Raven, they turned the script around to make him the films chief axis, and boy what a smart move that was for this is Alan Ladd's show all the way.
Ladd plays Raven with brilliant icy veneer, he's cold and devoid of emotion, his only trip to anything resembling caring is an affinity to cats because in his own words, "cats don't need anyone, they are on their own, just like me", the result is one of the most unnerving killers put on to the 40s cinema screens. Veronica Lake is the stunning female of the piece, she glides through the picture with ease as Ellen, a character with her own issues, but thankfully she's integral outside of any sort of romantic plot, even though she is the only one who gets close enough to Raven to learn anything about what makes him tick.
Robert Preston as Michael Crane was to be the pics focus but he becomes a mere side part thanks to Ladd's barnstorming show, and unsurprisingly Laird Cregar is suitably shifty as Gates. It's a fine film in its own right, it's tightly filmed, wonderfully scripted and contains a great noir ending, but ultimately it's all about the cold as death hit-man Raven, and the great performance by the man who played him. 8.5/10
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