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Force of Evil (1948)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | March 1949 (USA)
An unethical lawyer, with an older brother he wants to help, becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket.

Director:

Abraham Polonsky

Writers:

Abraham Polonsky (screenplay), Ira Wolfert (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Garfield ... Joe Morse
Thomas Gomez ... Leo Morse
Marie Windsor ... Edna Tucker
Howland Chamberlain Howland Chamberlain ... Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)
Roy Roberts ... Ben Tucker
Paul Fix ... Bill Ficco
Stanley Prager Stanley Prager ... Wally
Barry Kelley ... Detective Egan
Paul McVey ... Hobe Wheelock
Beatrice Pearson ... Doris Lowry
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Storyline

Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

March 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Numbers Racket See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Identified by critic Thom Andersen as an example of "film gris", a suggested sub-category of film noir incorporating a left-wing narrative. See more »

Goofs

During a climactic montage set at an East Coast racetrack on the Fourth of July, people in the stock footage crowd scenes are dressed in winter garments nobody would wear in the middle of summer. See more »

Quotes

Leo Morse: The money I made in this rotten business is no good for me, Joe. I don't want it back. And Tucker's money is no good either.
Joe Morse: The money has no moral opinions.
Leo Morse: I find I have, Joe. I find I have.
See more »

Connections

Edited into American Cinema: Film Noir (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

String Quartet opus 131, no. 14: Ist Movement
(uncredited)
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The only way to successfully defeat evil is to expose it
7 July 2004 | by sol1218See all my reviews

****SPOILERS**** John Garfield as big time mob lawyer Joe Morse at his best in a Cain and Able like story about the numbers racket in New York City. Where his brother Leo, Thomas Gomez, has a small neighborhood numbers bank that gets wiped out on July 4th when the number 776 which was heavily bet comes out not by chance but by design. In a fix engineered by Joe's mobster client Ben Tucker, Roy Roberts, in an attempt to corner and take over the numbers business in the city.

Joe being helpless to get Leo out of the numbers business before 776 hit because of a combination of Leo's honesty to pay off those who played the number at his establishment. Joe's affiliation with Tucker made it impossible for him to tell Leo the real reason for him to close up on July 4th without reviling Tucker's criminal activities. On the evening of July 4th all hell breaks loose with all the small numbers banks all over the city going bust by not being able to pay off those thousands who played number 776.

Joe trying to get Leo back on his feet by getting him a job with the Tucker mob sees that Leo would rather be broke then be involved with organized crime. Leo cares more about the people who worked for him, who ended up broke and in jail, then himself making a lot more then he did when he was a small time numbers banker. With Leo wanting out of the business before he corrupts himself by working for the mob he's kidnapped by the Ficco gang, Tucker's muscle men. Leo's accountant Freddie Bauer, Howard Chamberlain, is later murdered because not only didn't want out like Leo but could identify those who kidnapped Leo as well.

Joe drunk and depressed, over what is happening to Leo, at a local nightclub with Leo's secretary Doris Lowry, Beatrice Pearson, sees the news of Leo's kidnapping and Bauer's murder in the newspaper and rushes to Tucker's office. Finding Tucker there with his gangster partner Bill Ficco, Paul Fix, Joe tries to get his brother Leo released by the Ficco mob. It's then that Joe finds out that Leo died of a heart attack and was dumped on the rocks under the Washington Bridge.

In an explosive and emotional moment Joe secretly lifts up a phone in Tucker's cabinet drawer, that Joe knows is being tapped by the DA's office. Joe knowing that it's all over between him and Tucker gets, by inciting, both him and Ficco to spill the beans about their criminal operations, as well as Ficco's kidnapping and later death of Leo. When Tucker and Ficco are shown the activated phone by Joe the lights go out and there's a shootout where both Tucker and Ficco end up getting shot and killed by Joe. Taking off with Doris to the Washington Bridge Joe find Leo's body lying on the rocks.

Sad and emotional ending with Joe and Doris finding Leo's body and later, as the movie ends, Joe going to the DA to tell all he knows about the life of crime that he led defending hoods like Tucker that cost Leo's life. Both powerful and touching movie about good and evil that was so ahead of it's time in how the force of evil destroys the lives of those who embrace it. That even now almost sixty years after it's release "Force of Evil" still packs the same wallop as it did back in 1948.


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