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A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
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After WW2, former RAF airman Clem Morgan joins a gang of black-market smugglers-thieves but when a robbery goes wrong, Clem is caught , framed for a policeman's murder, and is sent to prison where he plots his escape and revenge.
From the trial of the survivors, we flash back to amoral crook Ralph Cotter's violent prison break, assisted by Holiday Carleton, sister of another prisoner...who doesn't make it. Soon Ralph manipulates the grieving Holiday into his arms, and two crooked cops follow her into his pocket. Ralph's total lack of scruple brings him great success in a series of robberies. But his easy conquest of gullible heiress Margaret Dobson proves more dangerous to him than any crime...Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
How fickle film history is! To think that this most intense crime thriller has been totally overlooked. I wouldn't say underrated, because it seems that everyone who has watched it agrees with me.
I woke up ten minutes before this movie started on TV, flicked the switch, and thought, OK cool, a James Cagney movie. I wasn't prepared for the roller-coaster plunge through abyssal night. Or the violent way with which the riders carom off into the void. The ending scene is totally classic with dialogue and revelation that pitches the film into the darkest reaches of noir.
Everything about this movie is hyped, Cotter (Cagney) hasn't got a bottle of champagne, he's got a jeroboam, he hasn't got a revolver, he's got an automatic, he hasn't got one honey, he's got two, we don't do 100 kilometers per hour, we do 100 miles per hour, and in a car the size of a carnival float. The guy's a total psycho, but not in the Robert Ryan way that turns you against his character, in the Cagney way where it's all like some big game to him.
There are a lot of totally mesmerising scenes in this movie. Two stand out just for the sheer exhilaration factor - this is the bit where you coo out loud. When Barbara (Holiday Carleton) throws a pot of coffee at Cotter he says, 'No cream?', so she throws the cream at him, 'No sugar?' so he gets the sugar, and finally 'No cigar?'. I was on the floor. Then there is the scene where Helena (Margaret Dobson) takes him out for a drive in her sporty little number. She takes it up to a hundred to scare him, and then he stamps his foot on hers and takes it to 110 whilst she frantically swerves.
Some people have commented on how the framing device of the court-case doesn't work. But for me it's total brutality, the director doesn't waste time with the minutiae of court proceedings, he just uses them to makes plain right from the very start that its all gonna end badly. It's a complete train wreck of a movie, there isn't an honest man in sight, and the casual nature of the violence just shocks you. Cutting kills people like he's taking out the trash, it's just another chore.
There's also classic support from Ward Bond, in this movie he always looks like he's gonna screw you up and toss you away. This role stands apart from the usual supporting roles he gets, either buffoonish (Fort Apache), ineffectual (Johnny Guitar), foolishly vigilante (On Dangerous Ground).
OK so we got broads with pzazz, we got dialogue to die for, we got utter magnetism from the lead actor (as only Cagney can be), and we've got total, anthracitic, ebonic, pitch-black noir. 11/10
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