7.4/10
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Force of Evil (1948)

Not Rated | | 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:

Not Rated | 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

In order to show cinematographer George Barnes how he wanted the film to look, Abraham Polonsky gave him a book of Edward Hopper's Third Avenue paintings. See more »

Goofs

When Joe's office is broken into, the cover to the safe is left open. When Joe goes into his office, the cover is closed. See more »

Quotes

Joe Morse: Wouldn't you like to celebrate on a really large scale, Miss Lowry?
Doris Lowry: What are you celebrating, Mr. Morse?
Joe Morse: A clear conscience.
Doris Lowry: Oh, whose?
See more »

Connections

Featured in New York at the Movies (2002) 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

Top Marx!
23 January 2003 | by kennethwright2612See all my reviews

McCarthy blacklist victim Abraham Polonsky's angry and poetic film noir is perhaps the most candidly subversive picture ever made in a commercial genre, almost explicitly equating capitalism with crime in the metaphor of the numbers racket. It belongs on the face of it to the post-war-disillusionment school of American thrillers (eg The Blue Dahlia, Key Largo), in which the evils that ordinary Joes spent the war fighting turn out to be business as usual when they get back home. But what makes it so unusual is its insistence, contrary to the message of other social-comment crime thrillers of the 1940s, that it's a bad system, rather than bad people, that's to blame for the woes of the world. The fate of Mob lawyer John Garfield's decent, kind-hearted brother Thomas Gomez, a small-time policy banker, shows us what happens to good people who try to play straight in a crooked game. If the bad guys in the film turned good, Polonsky implies, they'd only get the same. Polonsky described the source novel, Tucker's People, as "an autopsy on capitalism".

Sermon over: none of the above gets in the way of a raging, doom-laden crime melo that, like a snowball, gets faster and weightier as it barrels along. Superb New York location photography, a vitriolic script, and committed, sincere performances lock our attention to every second of its 81 New York minutes. If it weren't for Gun Crazy (scripted under a front name by another dangerous pinko, Dalton Trumbo), Force of Evil would be the best film noir ever made.


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