After being away for a few years, working class Steve Thompson returns to his hometown of Los Angeles to move back into the family home with his parents and younger brother. Steve quickly falls into old, familiar routines: getting his old job as a driver at the Horten's Armored Car Service where his Pop works, hanging out at his old watering hole the Round Up bar and restaurant despite many of the faces there having changed, and reuniting with two people, his friend, Police Lt. Pete Ramirez, and his ex-wife, Anna. Ma Thompson knows that despite the two having only lasted as husband and wife for seven months, Steve cannot stay away from Anna, and both Ma and Pete know that Anna is bad news for Steve. And although Steve believes he and Anna have made an emotional connection with each other all over again, he learns that she has ended up marrying gangster, Slim Dundee, a regular at the Round Up. With the emerging circumstance, Steve devises a spur of the moment plan appealing to Slim's ...Written by
Sure, you've seen it all before: the snarling villain (Dan Duryea), the black widow babe (Yvonne DeCarlo), and the hapless fall guy who just can't help himself (Burt Lancaster). But this is vintage noir from the golden age, done with real style and conviction. What stays with me are those scenes that have since worked their way into the textbook. There's the nightclub scene, where Lancaster gazes longingly at lost love DeCarlo, while she sambas with new honey boy Tony Curtis. Meanwhile there's this pulsating Latin beat that keeps going and going and everybody's shaking it except poor Lancaster. You feel the doom in the air and know this has to end badly. Then there's that nervous scene in the hospital where Lancaster's all laid up. But who's this new guy. He looks like Joe Average, but is he.
Director Siodmak really knows how to shift gears and make these quiet moments creepy. Everybody's been waiting for the robbery, but it seems like a cloudy dream, the kind you only half remember and wish you could forget. Ghostly figures drift in and out of focus, yet which one's Lancaster and who's got the money. Hollywood's fog machines were really working overtime on this one. Of course, it all leads up to the final scene, which is about as good as noir gets. The moment of reckoning when everything comes together, this time with a good view of eternity and in the moonlight, no less. The feeling that it all had to happen from the beginning is so thick you can cut it with the proverbial knife.
Sure, the D-cup DeCarlo's not quite up to the acting challenge, and the great Duryea doesn't get enough scenes, but consider the screen time given to two deserving foot soldiers of the golden era. Once you've seen him, you never forget him: that raspy-voiced gnome Percy Helton as the bartender. There's been no one like him before or since, a sly little troll who's escaped from the pages of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Yet I've never seen him give anything less than an A-grade performance that lifted many a B-movie above the forgettable. On the other hand, there's the completely ordinary Robert Osterloh as the mysterious stranger. His face is sort of familiar. Maybe he's the guy who fixes your car or fills your prescription or on a really bad night, shoves a gun in your gut. But like Helton, he too never gave anything less than an expert performance. Too bad his little Hollywood star never glowed, but he sure made a lot of others brighter than they were.
It's all there and in the kind of irreplaceable black and white that Hollywood's been trying to remake in Technicolor for years. So catch up with this original and find out why.
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