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Siodmak and Lancaster (and DeCarlo and Duryea) scale one of the pinnacles of film noir
bmacv10 January 2004
Robert Siodmak and Burt Lancaster made beautiful movies together - two of them, anyway (The Crimson Pirate is, as they say, another story). Together, they mark Siodmak's most assured work in film noir - and indispensable titles in the cycle. Siodmak introduced Lancaster to the world in The Killers; three years after that auspicious debut, he starred him again in Criss Cross. With his chiseled face and rugged physique, Lancaster was the embodiment of the all-American pluck that had just won a war and was setting out to assume hegemony of the globe. So Siodmak cast him, again, as a loser.

Lancaster returns to his family home in the shabby Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles; he'd been away trying to forget his marriage, which went bad after seven months. But absence made his heart grow fonder, and he thinks of his ex-wife (Yvonne DeCarlo) as a piece of apple core that gets wedged between the teeth and can't be dislodged, even with the cellophane from a pack of smokes. Ah, romance....

Lying to himself, he starts hanging around their old joint, The Round Up, hoping to spot her. Neither a ritzy club nor a down-and-out dive, it's a blue-collar night spot divided down the middle, with the bar and phone booth on one side and, on the other, the tables and dance floor. It's there he sees her again, doing a smoldering rhumba with young (and uncredited) Tony Curtis to the insinuating flute warblings of Esy Morales. She's ready to get back together, and so is he, but pride gets in the way; in retaliation, she marries flashy gangster Dan Duryea.

But Lancaster and DeCarlo keep bumping against each other, like cellophane and apple core. When Duryea confirms his suspicions by catching them together, Lancaster weasels his way out of a very tight corner by saying he's planning a job for them - knocking over the armored truck company he drives for, with himself as the inside man. He rationalizes his complicity away by thinking he and DeCarlo will abscond with their share of the loot.

The brutal heist, filmed in a fog of smoke bombs, goes awry, with lives lost on both sides. Lancaster's arm is smashed, but he winds up acclaimed a hero - if one strung up by pulleys attached to his hospital bed. Only his erstwhile friend, a police lieutenant (Steven McNally) figures out the role Lancaster really played, and disgusted by his thick-headedness, warns that he's not safe from Duryea's henchmen, even while he's recuperating. He's right: Lancaster finds himself being abducted to the oceanside rendezvous where DeCarlo is waiting - and for a final reckoning with Duryea.

Siodmak's establishes full command from the movie's first shot - a stunning aerial glide over Los Angeles at night, swooping into the parking lot behind The Round Up where Lancaster and DeCarlo are trysting - to its last, a darkly poetic pietà. Characteristically, he fragments the narrative through flashbacks, counterposing the hopes of Lancaster's return home with the desperation into which he has fallen. He also slows down for virtuosic sequences that only a great director could bring off: a long scene when the heist is being plotted, with the bored DeCarlo smoking cigarettes (`It passes the time') while the Angels Flight funicular railway criss-crosses the window behind her; and an equally long one in the hospital, involving a cranked-up bed, a tilted mirror on the bureau, and a visitor in the corridor - a good Samaritan who turns out to be his worst nightmare.

Criss Cross displays almost documentary-style familiarity with the details of post-war life, when prosperity was finally trickling down to working stiffs. Lancaster's sporty duds showed a new, liberated look that would become the standard for men's casual wear for half a century (and counting), and DeCarlo, at the high-water mark of her career, looks as smashing in her slacks and barettes and print dresses as no woman has since. Siodmak catches the excitement of disposable cash in callused hands, but isn't condescending about it; but overzealous love for it, however unaccustomed, is still the root of all evils.

Another German expatriate like Siodmak, Franz Planer photographed the movie (and it's probably his finest hour, too). He shoots the armored truck from a vertiginous, almost abstract angle as it invades a huge industrial plant, or savors the shadows hurtling across its hood as it speeds across an ironwork trestle. Nor does the living scenery get short shrift - close-ups of both DeCarlo and Lancaster are voluptuous (and Duryea's especially fearsome).

As he was able to do in The Killers, Siodmak keeps the integrity of the script, never lightening the tone or taking refuge in sentimentality. The blend of crime and doomed romance, the tug-of-war between passion and self-interest, finds perfect balance here. Of course, it's the simplest and most infallible recipe for film noir. As DeCarlo says, `Love... love! You've got to watch out for yourself.' If only she'd said it a little sooner.
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Gritty noir the way I like it...ranks with the best...
Doylenf12 September 2004
1940's seedier side of Los Angeles makes a fitting noir background for this highly well made film noir starring BURT LANCASTER as the lovelorn hero foolish enough to go back to his ex-wife (extremely well played by YVONNE DE CARLO) who has taken up with a bunch of hoodlums headed by the sinister DAN DURYEA. True love never does run smooth, especially in this kind of fatalistic melodrama in which we have a hint from the very beginning of a dark conclusion.

The fact that Lancaster works for an armored car service is worked into the plot and makes for the movie's most suspenseful and action-filled moments. Some nice support from Stephen McNally as Lancaster's wise friend and Richard Long as his brother. Percy Felton does a standout job as an inquisitive bartender.

Robert Siodmak squeezes every bit of suspense as the story builds to a gripping climax. The hospital scene is extremely effective as Lancaster becomes aware of the dangerous situation he's in.

Lancaster displays some vulnerability and sensitivity despite his rugged good looks and has one of his best early roles here, even more impressive than he was in THE KILLERS. Miklos Rozsa's superb background score gives a jagged edge to the suspense.

Any lover of B&W film noir is guaranteed to find pleasure in this one.

Trivia: If you watch real closely, you'll spot the young Tony Curtis as de Carlo's dance partner in the crowded nightclub scene.
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Big Deal In L.A.
telegonus4 February 2003
It was only fitting that Robert Siodmak directed Criss Cross, as he had also directed the film's star, Burt Lancaster, in his first film three years earlier, and this one is Burt's farewell to noir and city suits, as he was about to begin his swashbuckling phase, and after that would don military uniforms and cowboy gear.

Criss Cross is basically a "big heist" movie, full of people double crossing one another with alarming frequency, and to such a degree that the story is often hard to follow. Yvonne De Carlo is the love interest, and Dan Duryea is an exceptionally nasty bad guy even for noir. The setting is L.A., and there is much excellent location photography that makes the movie a treat for people who want to see what the city looked like before half of it was bulldozed to make way for the highways.

There's nothing startling or especially new about this movie. It has a fine and somewhat eclectic supporting cast which includes Alan Napier and Richard Long, Steve McNally and Percy Helton. As in The Killers, there's a strong air of fatalism in the movie, more oppressive here, with a darker tone, and a more Germanic, almost Langian feeling of hopelessness.
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Where have you gone Yvonne De Carlo?
lemon99321 May 2004
This flick is a keeper. If you see one film noir from the Forties this should be it. Starring a very young Burt Lancaster, Dan Duryea and the great Yvonne DeCarlo, this dark and shadowy movie shakes the genre to its core. The movie is set in a post-W.W.II Los Angeles when the city was about to burst free and become a Metropolis. Virtually everything we see is gone: trolleys, single-family homes on hills and probably the worst armored car security put on film. (A driver is called away from a run by a suspicious phone call and no supervisor is notified!) The roster of character actors include Alan Napier, Alfred on "Batman," the ever present Percy Helton, and Stephen McNally. Another actor I've seen before has a habit of exclaiming "That's the ticket!" Could this be where Jon Lovitz got his lucrative catch phrase? But the true standout in the film is the exotic and sinfully talented Yvonne DeCarlo. Hollywood never utilized this this lady right. She was always dumped into B-Westerns or costume pics. However, whenever she was given something juicy such as an adult comedy or A-Drama, like this film, she excelled. And if you want to see her belt out a few tunes just check out the pilot episode of "Bonanza" or the ultra cool episode of the "Munsters," where she performs a bluesy number on the harp, you know, the one with the rock band The Standells.
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Follow the Corkscrew
dougdoepke21 July 2015
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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"I shoulda grabbed you by the neck, I shoulda kicked your teeth in."
bensonmum225 January 2006
Wow! Criss Cross was a blind purchase for me. I really had never read much about it until I decided to give it a try. While I was hoping to be entertained, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it this much. Burt Lancaster has never been a favorite of mine. In fact, other than The Killers, I can't think of another role of his that I've so completely enjoyed. He's wonderful in this movie. As for Yvonne De Carlo, the only other thing I remember seeing her in was the television show "The Munsters". And, while she may not be the greatest actress of all time, she's very good here. I never pictured Lily looking like this. As for Dan Duryea, he's a great baddie. Mannerisms, speech, and the rest of the package just ooze with sleaze. Together, and with the help of an excellent supporting cast, they're great.

As for the movie, it's a very entertaining noir with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Lancaster is the kind of man who drinks too much, De Carlo is the kind of woman who uses men to get what she wants, and Duryea is the kind of man who would as soon shoot you as look at you. It's gritty, sometimes violent, and always entertaining. The film is expertly directed by Robert Siodmak, whose work I've always enjoyed. The script is exceptional with more double-crosses in the final half than one movie has a right to. No one is above double-crossing anyone else. It makes for a very entertaining hour and a half. The movie also features a nice look at Los Angeles in the 40s. The scenes of middle-class, single-family neighborhoods are quite different from the city of today.

While Criss Cross may not be the best film noir I've seen, I would place it somewhere on a list of my ten favorite noirs. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre.
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Steve Thompson, Idealist
PlutonicLove14 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
In faithful accordance with classic film noir convention (a modus operandi also reminiscent of the Greek tragedies of old), armored truck driver Steve Thompson, protagonist of "Criss Cross", Robert Siodmark's and Burt Lancaster's follow-up to the outstanding "The Killers", brings about his own ruin and demise through two primary tragic flaws, namely hopeless infatuation and unfounded optimism. The object of his affection is his ex-wife Anna, memorably played by the stunning Yvonne De Carlo, whose hubris prompts her to wed sleazy gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), apparently to spite Steve's detective friend Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally) for intimidating her the night before. Regrettably I cannot be too sure of this plot point, though, as at the time my attention was solely focused on Miklós Rózsa's wonderfully dark and driving underscore.

Naturally a torrid affair ensues between Mr. Thompson and the now-Ms. Dundee, and -- even more naturally -- they are almost immediately caught together by her new husband, which impels Thompson to divert Slim Dundee's attention by unexpectedly suggesting a heist of his armored truck. It remains somewhat unclear whether this is something he'd been planning all along or just an inspired attempt to weasel himself out being killed on the spot, but the gangsters thankfully decide to go along with it. Crosses and double-crosses follow, Anna somehow escapes with the money, lovesick Steve stupidly leads the mobsters to her hideout, and Slim shoots them both in cold blood.

Undeniably this summary, either through simplification or omission, paints Steve Thomson as a bit of a nitwit, but although he makes some unbelievably bad choices, they are always well-rooted in his character, which screenwriter Daniel Fuchs (working from a novel by Don Tracy, of "Death Calling Collect" fame) takes great pains to establish in the first third of the story. The real conflict here is one of ideology, Steve being an idealist and Anna being a realist. One Imdb user cites Steve's refusal `to become completely cynical and hard-bitten' as his most admirable feature, likely unaware of the famous H.G. Wells quote that states `A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.' Steve is more than just a hopeless romantic, he possesses and indefatigable optimism that allows him to rationalize any action not just for the sake of being with Anna, but due to the firm, absolute conviction that they belong together and that nothing will stand in their way. Alas, in film noir love does not necessarily conquer all and, as Anna put it, `you've got to watch out for yourself.'

In the end, when taking one of the gangsters to Anna's hideout for a payoff, Steve has obviously abandoned all logical reasoning and is acting on pure, emotion-fueled impulse. He is so blinded by love, so single-mindedly focused on Anna, that he gives no second thought to Slim or the money, certain that his police friends will take care of the matter eventually. In many ways, the traditional gender roles of him and Anna are reversed here. She is the tough, down-to-earth pragmatist struggling for survival; he is the longing, pining fool, willing to sacrifice everything for her love. It is the against-type casting of Burt Lancaster, in other way the blue-collar macho idol of the time, that makes this reversal fascinating.
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what an ending!
christopher-underwood18 March 2009
Good solid noir, with Burt Lancaster possibly running a little below best but Yvonne DeCarlo as the supreme femme fatale is in stomping form and more than makes up for any lapses from others. Gets going immediately and the aerial shot makes us well aware that this is going to be a beautifully shot movie, which it certainly is. Really great camera movement, especially during a stunning dance sequence, that includes an unaccredited Tony Curtis, and the heist itself with the surprising element designed to catch out Mr Lancaster. Good all the way through and if Lancaster sometimes appears a little lame it is probably because of the sheer ruthlessness of Dan Duryea as the chief baddie and the aforementioned DeCarlo who seems to be able to run rings round them all. Oh and what an ending!
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It's pretty good....
gazzo-229 October 2004
.....typical entry for the genre. Dumb hero guy gets tangled up w/ the wrong gal for the wrong reasons, mobsters are hanging around, and there is a heist that winds up blowing everything apart in their lives.

I liked how Lancaster played against type and was a 'sap' pretty much. Clearly DeCarlo was the one calling the shots in that pairing. Duryea plays his usual nasty Willem Dafoe/Peter Strauss type villain, and for my money was the most effective actor in the movie. The finale w/ him showing up at their door,'s quite something, very striking.

I also was surprised at the violence of the heist itself-gas going off, killings, etc left and right. Considering the laughable lack of security, personnel and etc that these keystone Brinks guys are showing, it's amazing how close the baddies came to not getting a cent for their efforts.

Pretty decent cast too-there's Percy Helton as the barkeep, there's Alan Napier, there's Tony Curtis in a cameo, there's you other typical baddies of the day. Nice turn by Steve MacNalley too.

Fine movie, bit lax on the plotting I think--but the tone, camera work, and of course DeCarlo-make this a worthy view.

*** outta ****
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A Masterpiece of Master Robert Siodmak
claudio_carvalho28 May 2005
While driving an armored car in a lonely road, Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) recalls his life, after divorcing his beloved wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo) and working in many places in the United States of America, from the moment he returned home in Los Angeles a few days ago. Although traveling for almost two years trying to forget Anna, he is still obsessed with her. However, when he arrives in town, the sentimentally inconstant Anna gets married with the gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea). Steve plans a heist of the armored car with Slim, expecting to double-cross the criminal and escaping with Anna to another city to begin a new life, but things do not happen as he intended it was. "Criss Cross" is a magnificent film-noir, indeed another masterpiece of master Robert Siodmak. From the initial long scene, with an aerial view of Los Angeles reaching a spot in a parking area where Steve and Anna are having a conversation, to the conclusion of the story, there is no flaw in the script. Burt Lancaster has an outstanding performance in the role of a honest man obsessed with his former wife, who becomes criminal trying to regain the love of his fickle ex-wife. Yvonne De Carlo is also perfect and very beautiful, in the role of a cold and manipulative woman, being a perfect "femme-fatale". The black and white photography with many shadows is awesome in the DVD released in Brazil by the distributor Classicline, and the music score is simply perfect. In 1995, Steven Soderbergh updated this story with the excellent remake "Underneath". My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Baixeza" ("Lowness')
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I should have been a better friend. I shoulda stopped you.
Spikeopath18 April 2011
Criss Cross is directed by Robert Siodmak and adapted by Daniel Fuchs from Don Tracy's novel. It stars Burt Lancaster, Yvonne de Carlo, Dan Duryea and Stephen McNally. Music is scored by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography is by Franz Planer.

Steve Thompson (Lancaster) and old flame Anna (de Carlo) begin to rekindle their love, much to the dismay of those closest to Steve. She's now unhappily married to mobster Slim Dundee (Duryea), they plan to run away together but Slim is apparently getting wise to their affair. When the two are caught together by Slim, Steve quickly concocts a story that they were plotting an armoured-truck robbery that he wants Dundee to be involved in. Slim notes it's near impossible, but with Steve working for the armoured-truck company it opens the way for inside man possibilities. It deviates suspicion on the lovers, but this is only the start of their problems, for nothing is as it seems.

Criss Cross has come to be a favourite of many a film noir purist, a picture often held forward as one of the shining lights of the 1940's noir universe. But it so easily could have been so different given that the film's original producer, Mark Hellinger, suddenly died of a heart attack. The film under Hellinger's guidance was to be based around a racetrack heist, but with Hellinger's passing the project dropped into limbo and was sold off to Universal along with Lancaster and Siodmak as part of the deal. Although Lancaster was unhappy with the rewritten plot, his relationship with Siodmak had already been cemented three years earlier when they made The Killers, another of film noir's greatest triumphs. For Criss Cross, Siodmak, Fuchs and producer Michael Kraike took Tracy's novel and combined it with elements of The Killers (an Ernest Hemmingway short story). Ava Gardner wasn't on hand to reprise her Killers femme fatale performance, while Shelley Winters was considered but not offered the role that eventually went to de Carlo, who had worked with Lancaster previously on tough as nails prison movie, Brute Force (1947). Rounding out the link between the three protagonists comes with Duryea, he and de Carlo had made Black Bart & River Lady in 1948.

Alls well that ends well, figuratively speaking, because Criss Cross is a superb movie, one that begs to be re-watched whenever possible. All the classic traits of film noir are evident, both technically and narratively. The film begins with a portentous swirl of music from Rózsa, which in turn leads us into a dramatic aerial view of night time Los Angeles. From there we descend towards a parking lot and become witness to an illicit romance between Steve & Anna. At the film's finale we again will be the only witness' to their coupling, only this time it has a kicker, out shot being that Criss Cross is bookended by sheer brilliance. Obsession, betrayal and inescapable fate pervade the narrative from the moment we the audience are clued in to the history of Steve, Anna and Slim. As the tale unfolds in flashback there is a constant sense of feverish doom lingering in the air, aided considerably by Planer's evocative lighting set-ups and Siodmak's wonderful gliding camera and clinical framing compositions of the characters. Even the perky action high point of the robbery comes laced with smoggy gloom, the chaotic sequence only serving as a precursor to the present, where a hospital and a mirror shift us tonally back to the world of unease. And then the finale, one of the most bleakest, and therefore essential, ending in film noir history.

Cast are excellent, Lancaster, all square jawed and square shouldered, plays obsessed loser better than most, thanks in no small part to Siodmak's direction of him. Duryea does what he does best, playing a villain with oily verve and smirky menace, while de Carlo looks great and offers up a nice blend of sweet and rough, a different kind of femme fatale, the actress earning her acting stripes during "that" finale. In the main support slot, McNally impacts well with what he's given to do, and there's good value in the criminal ranks where Alan Napier lurks as the mastermind behind the robbery. Look out, too, for Tony Curtis, who is seen in a cameo dancing seductively with de Carlo at the Round-Up Bar. Also worth mentioning are the Los Angeles locales used for the shoot, mostly at night we get Bunker Hill, Angels Flight and Union Station. It's sad to report that Bunker Hill, a favourite spot for noir directors, was raised to the ground in the 60's

An obvious bedfellow to The Killers for sure, but even on its own terms it's essential film noir viewing for those of that persuasion. 9/10
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Above Average But Predictable Crime Noir Bolstered by a Top-Notch Cast
zardoz-1323 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Yvonne De Carlo smolders as a sultry femme fatale who juggles both fall guy Burt Lancaster and bad guy Dan Duryea in "Son of Dracula" director Robert Siodmak's "Criss Cross," an above-average but predictable exercise in film noir that boasts gloomy atmosphere, a gritty urban environment, and solid performances. Burt Lancaster gives an exceptional performance as the vulnerable protagonist who cannot conceal his sentiments about the De Carlo character from anybody, even the supporting characters. Speaking of supporting characters, "Criss Cross" boasts its share and they take an active part in the proceedings. Percy Helton as a bartender, Alan Napier as a crime planner, Joan Minor as the lush, Griff Barrett as Pop, and Tom Pedi as Dundee's accomplice all contribute memorably to the action.

Although the film noir elements aren't as oppressive as in Siodmak's earlier and superior collaboration with Lancaster on "The Killers," "Criss Cross" is unmistakably noir. For example, a larger number of scenes in "Criss Cross" take place during the day rather than at night. Siodmak never wears out his welcome here and the use of an extended flashback 14 minutes into the action that takes us back for important exposition is expertly integrated into the narrative. Siodmak stages the action nimbly without lingering unduly on anybody or anything. A Dresden-born German, Siodmak is a highly underrated helmer who has never received the well-deserved recognition accorded Fritz Lang. Mind you, Siodmak doesn't have Lang's cinematic flair with staging scenes, but his films are nevertheless robust.

Scenarist Daniel Fuchs, who later won an Oscar for "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955), based his screenplay on Don Tracy's crime novel with tough guy dialogue and continuity supplemented by William Bowers that emphasizes the theme of fatalism so essential to film noir. Moreover, Fuchs received an Edgar nomination for his "Criss Cross" script. Everybody in "Criss Cross" is destined to lose in some way or another. Lancaster's doomed character, however, suffers the greatest anguish by comparison. De Carlo's siren is second in line. Surprisingly, Fuchs and Siodmak generate more tension among their scheming principals in the first half of the action than they do with the gripping armored truck heist in broad daylight during the second half of the movie. Interestingly, the police don't figure prominently in "Criss Cross, though they hover on the periphery in the form of Lieutenant Frank Ramirez. The heist is still pretty engrossing material from its carefully planned stages to its skillful execution.

The production values of "Criss Cross" look first-rate. Universal doesn't appear to have confined either Siodmak or the film--despite its B-movie subject matter—to claustrophobic studio sets. The armored truck set looks terrific, particularly when they load the truck up and leave with a tilting high angle shot that shows them exiting the building. "Champion" cinematographer Frank (later Franz) Planer's evocative black & white photography is a considerable asset. Planer's location lensing is top-notch in several scenes, especially the multi-layered Round Up Bar and later at the factory where the heist occurs. Planer does an exceptional job of photographing the Lancaster character after he winds up in the hospital with his arm in traction. An interesting slice-of-life moment occurs early in the movie during a conversation between two employees at the armored truck firm when they discuss about the competitive price of two grocery stores and how one store undercuts the other with their prices o soap and tomato juice that enhances the 1949 setting.

"Criss Cross" starts out suspensefully as we learn that Anna (Yvonne De Carlo of "Brute Force") and Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster of "Elmer Gantry") are hiding in the parking lot of the nightclub called The Round Up where they are necking. The story unfolds chronologically to begin with because Anna is married to notorious gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea of "Black Bart") who is looking for her at that very moment inside the Round Up. Dundee gives Anna the third degree later when she comes back inside about what she was doing. Steve cautions her earlier that they must be discreet or they could blow the entire set-up. Later, Steve enters the Round Up to gate crash on Dundee's party. You see, Dundee and company plan to relocate to Detroit and he is giving a farewell party. Los Angeles Police Detective Lieutenant Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally of "Winchester '73") tries to dissuade Steve from butting in where he hasn't been invited. Steve blows him off and moments later Ramirez gate crashes the party himself after Dundee has pulled a knife on Steve. Ramirez is Steve's friend, though we never know the basis of their back and forth relationship. Whenever Steve calls Ramirez 'lieutenant,' Ramirez has him call him 'Pete.' When Ramirez is all business because Steve has crossed the line, he makes Steve call him 'lieutenant.' Steve drives an armored truck and Dundee and his henchmen plan to rob the armored track company that employs Steve. Sure, "Criss Cross" has the stock-in-trade message that 'crime doesn't pay' and it is emphasized by everybody but the optimistic Steve. Initially, an armored truck official brags, "Nobody ever got away with the heist on an armored truck in 28-years. Matter of fact, they don't even try any more." Later, Finchley (Alan Napier, who played Alfred the Butler on TV's "Batman") objects to the robbery because they always end in failure until he listens to Steve's inside idea. Vincent (Tom Pedi of "The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three") raves about the interjection from another henchman that everybody on that robbery wound up dead or in the chair.

Siodmak and Planer do a good job staging the heist. The criminals set off smoke bombs so that everything takes place in a kind of limbo with Steve trying to thwart the robbery after shooting breaks out that he didn't want. The paranoia in the hospital scenes where Steve feels trapped is gripping as is the ill-fated ending that Anna and Steve meet at Dundee's hands.
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Gritty Noir Struggles With Middling Plot
slokes5 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Burt Lancaster in this film reminds me of the Billy Joel song "Stiletto": "But you stand there pleadin'/With your insides bleedin'/'Cause deep down you want some more..." Like a lot of noir protagonists, he deserves it. My problem with "Criss Cross" is I never cared.

Is Steve just a sap, or is he a jerk? A lot depends on what is in the heart of the center of his affections, his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo). When Steve returns to the old neighborhood after a long absence, Anna draws herself to him, then pulls away and marries a local crime boss just as Steve begins to respond. Then she reaches out to Steve again. If only they had money to get away. Did I mention Steve works as an armored-car guard, delivering bags of money?

De Carlo was a beautiful actress who didn't get the right parts, and that includes this. Is Anna genuinely conflicted, or just a tramp? Daniel Fuchs' script shortcuts the need for character depth by writing Anna both ways, and not expecting us to notice. The convenience of Steve's job also grates, as well as the film's flashback-dependent structure and logic-defying conclusion.

I understand why others regard this film more highly than me. Lancaster is a classic film star who looks marvelous here. Director Robert Siodmak, who collaborated so well with Lancaster in the earlier noir "The Killers", employs interesting angles and textures to communicate a visual freshness unusual for early postwar cinema. Dan Duryea is a sleek and sturdy villain with a refreshingly snide sense of humor.

Three sequences are standouts. One, taking place in a hospital, dramatizes the adage: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." Another involves planning a big heist, with Anna and Steve's smoldering relationship as subtext and suspense point. "You're going to need a cover story" Duryea's Slim Dundee is told, and thus distracted from watching his wife and her ex-husband a moment longer than he should.

Finally, the heist itself is well shot, a boldly paced shootout with layers of tear gas substituting for the fog you get in other noir films. But "Criss Cross" is not at its heart a heist film but a love-gone-wrong film, and that's what goes wrong here.

Okay, Steve's a lunkhead, and his core issue: "He's divorced, but he's still got her in his bones" is one a lot of guys can identify with, but other than looking great together, Lancaster and De Carlo give us no reason to see what Steve sees, why he betrays family and friends. If De Carlo had more ambiguity to play with, that might have been effective, but here it's just that she's one person one moment, another the next.

Too often we idle around Steve's mother's house or a bar where Steve is pestered by a well-meaning cop friend, who's got it all figured out but can't seem to do a thing to protect Steve. Expositional dialogue runs amuck, which shouldn't happen in a movie loaded with flashback. The crooks even discuss their heist plans loudly in an alley behind the bar where they could be overheard by anyone, just to fill us in.

Siodmak has an eye for real-life detail a lot of people respond to, but this time, unlike "The Killers", he only has half a story and a psychosis to work with. "Criss Cross" has a classic noir title but it's almost too apt here.
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Obsession, Betrayal & The Hand Of Fate
seymourblack-14 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Criss Cross" is a well made movie about a gullible guy who's obsessed with the past and his ex-wife. Having tried to heal his obsession by leaving Los Angeles for a period of time, he decides to return home and deludes himself that he's simply returning to be with his family, when in fact everyone around him knows the real reason for his return. His decision to come back to L.A. and his past is a dreadful mistake which ultimately seals his fate.

Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) starts to frequent "The Round Up", a bar where he and his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo) used to hang out and when they meet up again, they rekindle their relationship. This exasperates his mother and his old friend Detective Lieutenant Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally). They both know that Anna is not to be trusted and Pete is also aware that a local gangster called Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) is infatuated with her.

Anna is very materialistic and marries Slim because he's wealthy. Steve is very hurt but when he meets her some time later, she tells him that she's unhappy in her marriage and that her new husband beats her. She also says that she married Slim because Pete had threatened to arrest her if she didn't stop seeing Steve. Predictably, the couple then resume their affair.

A little time later, Anna calls at Steve's home to tell him that Slim knows about their affair and almost immediately after, Slim and some of his gang have also entered his house. In a hurried attempt to justify why he and Anna had been alone together, Steve explains that he's planning an armoured car robbery and that he needs Slim's help to carry it out. Steve works as a driver for the armoured car company and suggests that he could be the gang's "inside man".

When arrangements are made for the robbery to go ahead, Steve and Anna plan to double cross Slim but Slim also plans a double cross of his own.

Director Robert Siodmak had collaborated previously with Burt Lancaster in the making of "The Killers" and their work together on "Criss Cross" produced another high quality crime drama in which Siodmak's influence is in strong evidence. The opening sequence which begins with an aerial shot of the city at night and eventually closes in on the guilty looking couple is very impressive as is the staging of the robbery and there's also a spectacularly high overhead shot of the armoured vehicle approaching the scene of the crime which is truly unforgettable.

"Criss Cross" is essentially about a heist, a dangerous love triangle, obsession, betrayal and a number of double crosses. With very good performances from its talented cast, it also has a consistently ominous atmosphere and is profoundly fatalistic.
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After repeated exposure, Criss Cross emerges as essential noir viewing.
bob_gilmore16 July 2006
Like many viewers I was initially disappointed by Criss Cross. Some have claimed it to be a poor imitation of Lancaster's debut in "The Killers" but after repeated screenings I find that my appreciation increases with each viewing. The rather direct flashback plotting, the excellent supporting work of Dan Duryea and the whole stable of Universal bit players contribute to a delightful film noir experience. It does lack the irony and richness of story of "The Killers" and can't compare to "Out Of The Past" but the dynamic between Lancaster and DeCarlo ranks as some of the best interplay in the genre, even if a bit one dimensional.

If you are new to the genre, Criss Cross is not a first choice. But as you work your way through the cycle this film represents one of the high points of the studio systems addressing this film-making trend with non of the drawbacks often associated with "B" films.
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Not As Good As I Was Led To Believe
ccthemovieman-110 May 2006
As a film noir fan who read a lot of positive reviews of this film before seeing it, I wound up really disappointed with this after two views. For some reason, the first look wasn't bad but on a further viewing, it really dragged. The reason was simple: it took took long for the "heist" to happen.It turned out to be more of a talk-fest between Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo before anything happened.

I have nothing against the main actors and their performances. Lancaster, as always, was interesting and DeCarlo is also intriguing, especially for someone like me who grew up knowing her only as "Lily Munster." She had a convincing 1940s film noir look: pretty, sultry and not only looked the part but acted the part well, too. I wish she had done a few more noirs that were available on disc or tape.

When you add Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally and others, this should have been better and the middle just went on too long. The beginning and ending are, by far, the best parts of this movie.
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Atmospheric but shakily plotted Noir
Cajun-412 October 2000
As usual in a movie directed by Robert Siodmark there are striking compositions and some really tense moments in this sombre tale of cross, double-cross and revenge in a botched armored car robbery.Some convincing location scenes give us an authentic look at 1940's Los Angeles.

Burt Lancaster more or less reprises his role in THE KILLERS as an honest guy led astray by a beautiful woman. Yvonne DeCarlo doesn't quite hack it as the femme fatale but Siodmark makes the most of her looks and there is a well edited sequence of her dancing in a night club. (An un-billed Tony Curtis is her partner).Minor characters, the hoods, bartenders etc are well cast and there are good performances by those two stalwarts of 1940's movies Stephen Mcnally and Dan Duryea.

The story line is rather ragged and there are a few plot loop holes but the action when it comes is well handled.

Doesn't rank with THE KILLERS but it's an interesting look at a heist movie before they became cliches. You can see harbingers of future similar movies like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, THE KILLING, RIFIFI etc.
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Double crosser
jotix10017 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Steve Thompson returns to Los Angeles after eight months of roaming around the country trying to forget his painful divorce from sultry Anna. He finds a changed city, but a trip to a night club brings him again in close contact with a woman he should have been better off by staying away from. Anna, now married to Slim Dundee, a gangster operating in the city. She cannot resist the idea of two timing her present man when she meets Steve again.

Thompson, who has gone back to work as a driver for a security company, has no idea about how his life will change because of the fatal obsession he develops following Anna around town. As the two are surprised by Slim in his house, Steve, trying to get out of the situation, tells Dundee he has come with an offer he cannot refuse. He has the perfect solution about the perfect caper.

The 1949 Universal film, directed by Robert Siomak, one of the best men that worked in the noir genre, is a film that will not disappoint the viewer because it has the right ingredients going for it. The screenplay is by Daniel Fuchs, based on a novel by Don Tracy. The material was the right one for Mr. Siomak, who must have seen the potential in a movie that embodied all the elements that made this type of pictures a favorite of audiences. The amazing black and white cinematography by Franz Planer contributes to our enjoyment, as well as the music score by Miklos Rosza, that adds another layer in the texture of the finished product.

Burt Lancaster was at the height of his career. Having worked with Mr. Siomak in "The Killers", he probably felt this was the right vehicle, as he gives a subdued performance of the obsessed Steve Thompson. Yvonne DeCarlo plays the treacherous Anna with equal passion. Ms. DeCarlo always brought a sexual allure to most of the work she did, as it is the case of her Anna. Bad guy Dan Duryea specialized in the type he was asked to play, again, and again. He is a laconic Slim, who does not appreciate being double crossed by either Anna, or Steve.

The supporting casts in most of the Hollywood films of that era were a joy to watch, no matter in what film they were called to grace with their appearances. Thus we watch a young Tony Curtis, uncredited, dancing a rumba with Ms. DeCarlo. We also spotted Raymond Burr in a minor role. Stephen McNally is seen as a good guy, a change of pace for the characters he played in most films. Richard Long, John Doucette, and an effective Robert Osterloh, without credit in the film, do a good job for the director.
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Keep on Running Back
jem13212 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This Robert Siodmak-directed noir deserves closer attention. It's an excellent film that is much, much more than a re-hash of his 1946 noir masterpiece "The Killers". Granted, the plot involves a heist, director Siodmak is back on board and Lancaster again plays a big lug who dangerously falls for a sexy femme fatale and gets mixed up in a payroll heist, but it's deep, dark and tragic. Yvonne De Carlo's Anna is one of the more sympathetic of femme fatales, and as mentioned in some literature, her relationship with Lancaster is more romantic and complex, sort of "Romeo & Juliet", than first envisaged.

De Carlo is Lancaster's beautiful ex-wife, now married to shady gangster Slim Dundee (the always interesting, always menacing Dan Duryea). Lancaster's Steve Thompson, an armored car driver, is constantly urged by friends and family to stay away from her, but he looks for her every time. In voice-over, Lancaster muses on the workings of fate that always seem to drive him and Anna back together. But Siodmak shows us that Lancaster is a very active participant in his own destiny. He fools himself that it is fate-- in reality, he can't live without her. And it is that way too with De Carlo. Anna is a realist while Steve is an idealist. He stupidly believes that, after the bungled payroll heist, and he is kidnapped by one of Slim's henchman from the hospital, that the henchman won't give the money that Steve has bribed him with to take him to Anna, back to Slim. She flies off the handle and packs to leave, knowing that if Slim finds her he will kill both of them. But he is strangely at peace with coming death, because Steve is doomed with or without her. Steve is not the only one who keeps running back to their love--in the tragic, but cathartic, final scene Anna runs back to Steve as Slim pulls the gun to kill him. They die in each other's arms. Slim is also hopelessly in love with Anna, and he can't live without her either. Killing her because he can't have her, he also seals his own fate as the police arrive at the hideout.

Aside from the complex emotions dealt with in this great noir, it is also quite excellent on a technical level. Siodmak handles a tricky flashback with ease, helped immeasurably by Franz Planer's excellent black-and-white photography, There is a brilliant overhead shot as Lancaster's armored car sets up for the failed heist. The hospital scenes, with an injured Lancaster fearing that Duryea will send henchman to kill him, is filled with nail-biting suspense. Francis Ford Coppola might have borrowed a trick or two from Siodmak in adapting the famed hospital scene in "The Godfather" to the screen. Lancaster does very good work in a role that, on surface, he would seem to be miscast in. Instead he excels. Stephen McNally actually plays the good guy for once, but he's nowhere near as attention-grabbing as in his other films. Watch for Tony Curtis as De Carlo's dance partner in a sexy rumba dance scene!
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My brief review of the film
sol-17 January 2006
There are three things that stand out as being particularly good about this film - a superb Miklos Rosza score, great black and white photography, and an excellent supporting performance by Percy Helton as a knowledgeable bartender. Other than these aspects though, there is little else to make the film worth watching. It is too slowly paced, and has a dull plot in which a heist plan is meshed in with relationship drama. It is also rather nasty at times, and the flashback narration feels like a forced way of explaining events. Even so, there are still some well done sequences and a number of exciting moments in the final third of the film, which help bring it up to scratch. Overall, it is a pretty typical noir thriller - but with some interesting elements.
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Just edgy and unsual and visual enough to be perfect on its own terms
secondtake27 October 2010
Criss Cross (1949)

A dramatic, classic noir that is also a heist film and a doomed romance. Director Robert Siodmak knew exactly how to make this fast, complex, and still intelligible. It's a brilliant direction job, and on a so-so budget. The scenes of L.A. are worth the time alone, and the cleverness of the plot.

There are also a couple times in the bar when music is playing, and the camera and director take the time to really show it, especially the flute and piano player. These are all member of the real Esy Morales and his Rhumba Band, with Morales on flute. They are great scenes and all too brief. In fact, the whole ambiance of this club is one of the key attractions to the movie.

Yvonne De Carlo is a lesser known actress but she is spot on perfect here, both compelling and cold in turns. Dan Duryea is his usual snide, witty self, a joy in any movie. And Burt Lancaster manages to show a tender side as well has his more usual hardened and principled side. The three of them anchor the movie and make a great trio.

There are some famous tidbits to look for, like the opening shot (through the credits) which is a helicopter shot at night coming into the city, probably the first of its kind. And later in the film Lancaster asks whether they have ever thought about protecting their armored cards from a heist from a helicopter, a nice subtle tie in. The gas mask scenes and the explosions are pretty dramatic and allow for a wonderful amount of confusion--you can't see who is who at all. The moving camera is often used for visceral effects, moving through rooms or attached to a car. But one great scene has Lancaster cranked up higher in a hospital bed, and the camera shows his subjective view changing as he is looking in a mirror. There is an interesting brief and very intentional early foreshadowing of this when Lancaster and De Carlo are making out in the parking lot. Twice De Carlo looks right into the camera, as if looking into Lancaster's eyes. This sets up early that our protagonist is Lancaster. Nice stuff.

It's just a romantic, great, moody, dramatic, unusual film. Don't miss it.
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Well shot - but what about the story?
David-24015 December 1999
This film looks great - a classic noir - but the story is dull and predictable. I'm sure this frustrated Robert Siodmak as he can never really make the film fire in the way that he did "The Killers". The other weak link is Yvonne De Carlo, who looks great but is never really convincing. Much better is Burt Lancaster, also looking great, but very convincing as the love-sick fool hero. And the supporting cast of hoods and odd-balls is interesting. Worthwhile, but not great - with an excellent finale.
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Could have been....
ryancm20 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This could have been a good movie if more things were explained. Way too many plot holes to find this enjoyable. The ending in particular is off left field. SPOILER ALERT: How did the kidnapper get back to Dundee so fast and Dundee shows up at the house in a matter of two minutes? Way out of wack here. How did Anna get hold of the money? No explanation at all. If the Pete the cop knew Lancaster was in danger, why didn't he have a cop at the door in the Hospital. This and many more questions remain. Too bad because the premise was there, just bad writing and execution.

Good cast is wasted here. DeCarlo goes from bad to good to bad? Lancaster's character lacks development and Dureya is just blah as the "bad guy".

This could re-made with a cohesive story line and better writing. Of course it would be much more violent with lots of gratuitous sex and everything. The editing would be jerky as well I guess, so let's leave well enough alone.
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Lancaster miscast in this overrated heist noir
Turfseer21 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Why would Burt Lancaster allow himself to play a poor schnook who is ultimately undermined by femme fatale Anna Dundee, played by Yvonne DeCarlo in 'Criss Cross'? The same reason why Robert Mitchum allows himself to be cast as another loser who falls for femme fatale Faith Domergue in the 1950 noir, "Where Danger Lives". Perhaps they both felt it was a good way to show that they had 'range' as actors—that playing against type, the usual 'tough-guy' role they were known for, would enhance their image as actors who could play any role. But the problem was that roles like Steve Thompson, the pathetic love-sick milquetoast in 'Criss Cross', did nothing to enhance Lancaster's career. Not only is Lancaster completely miscast in the one-note role of Thompson, but there's something inherently unlikeable (and may I say, pathetic) about the film's protagonist in the first place.

'Criss Cross' is an interminably slow-moving film. Among the many unnecessary scenes in the film is at the beginning: the flashback which chronicles Thompson's confrontation with Dan Duryea's Dundee at the nightclub. Everything that occurs in that initial flashback is explained later in the picture: the illicit affair between Steve and Anna, Steve's strained relationship with Martinez the cop and his bad blood with Dundee. If Director Siodmark felt compelled to begin the film with a flashback, why not keep it under three minutes? I think it would have been more effective.

In 'Criss Cross', it takes quite awhile before the protagonist commits himself and steps out of the 'ordinary' world of Act One. That's the scene where he's "passing by' and 'runs into' Anna at the nightclub. And notice how Siodmak spends so much time cutting back and forth between Anna dancing and Steve staring at her? In addition to the cross-cutting, he also spends a great deal of time focusing on Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band than moving the story along.

Up until the crisis of Act Two, the story plods along with Thompson having various uneasy encounters with Anna and then drowning his sorrows at his usual watering hole. At the midpoint of Act Two, he learns that Anna has run off and gotten married to Dundee. It's becoming more clear at this point that one of the film's central weaknesses is that Dundee is never on screen throughout most of the second act. There are no confrontations between Thompson and Dundee during this time and we're left with the rather unexciting machinations between the two lovebirds. As it turns out (and Anna 'explains' this later to Steve), the reason why she left was not only because he disappeared for eight months but she also felt pressure from Steve's mother as well direct threats from Martinez the cop who implied that he would see to it that she ended up in the Women's House of Detention. Anna goes back to Steve because she realizes she made a big mistake with Dundee—it turns out that he's been beating her and she's now scared of him.

One of the silly refrains uttered by more than one character in Criss Cross is that you can never hijack an armored car. But everyone acts so surprised when Steve points out it can be done if it's an 'inside job'! You would have thought that Dundee would have known about Steve's 'profession' as an armored car driver and propositioned him beforehand. But of course Steve needs to make the proposal so that Dundee won't kill him after discovering his affair with Anna (if they're so afraid at getting caught, why do Steve and Anna meet at his apartment where Dundee can so easily find them?). I really got a kick out of Finchley (played by Alan Napier), the 'brains' of the operation. Dundee is so dumb that he has to hire this alcoholic ex-professor type who plots out the heist on a map. Oh there is the matter of procuring the ingredients to construct the gas bombs used during the robbery and of course Finchley is good at that too!

The only really well done scene in the entire film is the armored car robbery. The editing was quite good as it depicted the rising action of a heist gone bad. As the gas bombs go off, the brutality of the gang is shown in high relief when Dundee murders the innocent Armored Car Guard.

The climax of the film is as drawn out as the rest of the film. Why does it take so long for one of Dundee's goons to kidnap Thompson? There's that nurse, then the goon is waiting outside, then he comes in and pretends that he's a friend, Steve falls asleep and finally after he awakes, the goon kidnaps him.

When Steve finally meets up with Anna at the house, we wonder how Anna got her hands on the cash. Did she somehow steal it from Dundee after the heist when he went out to dinner? It's never explained. Even worse, Anna suddenly becomes the evil femme fatale out of the blue. Before, her selfishness and attraction to Dundee can be explained by her perceived rejection at the hands of Steve and Martinez's threats. But after going back to Steve because she fears Dundee, she inexplicably turns on him when he is most vulnerable. Just as there is 'instant coffee', you have 'instant femme fatale'.

In "Film Noir—An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style" by Silver and Ward, the authors hail 'Criss by Cross' as "one of the most tragic and compelling of film noir". I beg to differ. In order to have tragedy you need characters that have great depth and in order to be compelling you need a story that's plausible. Criss Cross has neither. It's an overrated "B Movie" that somehow has found itself in the pantheon of art house noirs. Once again, the herd mentality has triumphed in evaluating the pictures of yesteryear.
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"But then from the start, it all went one way..."
classicsoncall22 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Boy, Yvonne De Carlo really managed to pull it off here. For the entire picture you believe Anna Dundee is in love with Burt Lancaster's character Steve Thompson. Then, when Steve shows up at Palos Verdes, she throws him over in favor of the stolen loot from the Bliss Company payroll heist. What a low down, dirty, double dealing dame.

But then again, that's what cool film noir is all about. Like many viewers who only ever saw De Carlo as Lily Munster, this was an eye opener. She looked sultry and seductive and had a way of wrapping Steve right around her little finger, even with gangster Steve Dundee (Dan Duryea) in the same room. Told in limited flashback style, the picture catches the viewer up to real time about half way through, at which point Steve makes his out of left field proposal to play inside man on the armored truck heist. Man, this guy was so blinded by love/lust he couldn't get out of his own way.

You know, I couldn't get over the conversation between a couple of Herton security guards when they began discussing their wives' shopping habits. I realize it's all relative, but could it really have broken the guy's budget to buy the soap powder for forty three cents instead of thirty seven at the Great Western? Or the couple cans of tomato juice for a quarter and save another six cents there? Boy, it really makes you think how things were, going back a half dozen decades.

This one ought to appeal to fans of film noir and gangster flicks, but you will have to pay attention. The business with the hood at the hospital looking in on Steve was a clever hook. For a while I couldn't figure why he would have been there on the pretext that his wife had an accident, but heck, lying would have been part of his repertoire. Same thing with Anna having the money from the hold-up, but during the planning, all the participants agreed that she would pay off the split with Steve. That's probably the one concession you have to make to suspending disbelief; knowing Slim Dundee, why would he agree to that knowing his wife's past with Steve.

Keep a sharp eye out during the scene with the rhumba band. Dancing with Anna is a sharply dressed Latin looking guy who turns out to be Tony Curtis. Don't blink or you'll miss it.
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