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Roadblock (1951)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 17 September 1951 (USA)
Honest LA insurance detective Joe Peters becomes corrupt after falling in love with sensual gold-digger model Diane.

Director:

Harold Daniels

Writers:

Steve Fisher (screenplay), George Bricker (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Charles McGraw ... Joe Peters
Joan Dixon ... Diane Morley
Lowell Gilmore ... Kendall Webb
Louis Jean Heydt ... Harry Miller
Milburn Stone ... Ray Evans
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Storyline

An L.A. insurance detective starts to get involved with a girl he is increasingly attracted to, even though he sees her as a chiseller. She makes it clear that her tastes are too expensive for him, so he sets about getting a lot of money quickly if illegally. Perhaps too late, she starts to find that she is content with him just the way he is. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A DAME IN MINK...A STOLEN MILLION and a red-hot payoff in bullets! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 September 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Walk a Crooked Mile See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Completed after The Narrow Margin (1952), one of Charles McGraw's other notable film noir starring roles, but released before that film because RKO Pictures owner Howard Hughes toyed with the idea of reshooting all of McGraw's scenes with Robert Mitchum in that film in order to boost it's profile. That film was ultimately released as originally shot the year after this one. See more »

Goofs

Miller tells Joe Peters he revealed himself as being associated with the robbery because Peters had said five men (plus the pilot) were involved at a time when that information was not known to the insurance company. Yet, immediately afterwards, Egan is cross-examining the pilot and mentioned the five men as though it was a fact, before the pilot actually admitted it. See more »

Quotes

Egan: [about Joe after he beats up DeVito] I thought he was an easy-going guy.
Harry Miller: He was - until he got married.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits seem to be an early attempt at creative credits where the credits try to fit the blacktop of the road we're "traveling" on. See more »


Soundtracks

So Swell of You
by Leona Davidson
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User Reviews

 
Holds Your Interest Very Nicely
7 November 2006 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

Are you tired of getting misinformation about "film noir" from people who think they know what they are talking about, but are clearly clueless on the concept? Most everyone has heard the term and most have a vague idea that it refers to a group of shadowy crime dramas (principally produced by Hollywood) from the 1940's and 1950's which include corruption as their main thematic element and sex as an audience draw. The shadowy cinematography grew out of a visual style that characterized German Expressionist cinema (realism that was not so much real as it was exaggerated).

For most producers of these films, it was an unconscious style only identified by film historians in retrospect. Which means that any effective definition must be rather loose and most style inconsistencies simply accepted. It is broader than many realize, going from Billy Wilder (actually from the German cinema) stuff like "The Lost Weekend", to classic Chandler adaptations like "The Big Sleep", to Welles' "Touch of Evil". By accepted definition it stays in the crime genre (private eyes, police, social problems) but could sometimes cross into other genres.

So just in case there is any confusion, "Roadblock" (1951) is clearly an example of "film noir", not just a good example of the style but a surprisingly entertaining film. It's a low-budget understated picture whose technical flaws and modest resources ironically enhance its most compelling feature, the distance of the self-discovery journey its two main characters traverse during the course of the story. What makes this spellbinding is that they begin on opposite extremes, move toward each other and then keep going until they actually end up beyond the other's starting position. To package a story of such a grand human scale, inside a modest little package, actually makes the story even more compelling as it adds to its allegorical theme and exaggerated expressionistic element.

Joe Peters (Charles McGraw-a completely nondescript leading man) begins the story as a Joe Friday ultra straight arrow insurance investigator. He and his partner (Louis Jean Heydt) open the film with an ingenious ploy to force a robber to reveal the location of some stolen money for which their company is on the hook.

Honest and ethical as the day is long, Joe at first seems drawn to strikingly beautiful femme fatale Diane (Joan Dixon) more by a sense of protectiveness than because of any physical attraction. Which is part of the genius of the casting, as McGraw was in his late thirties and Dixon had just turned 21.

They first meet when Diane scams the airline for a half price first class ticket by claiming to be the wife of Joe Peters; revealed to Joe only after they are seated together on the plane. She is headed from Ohio to Los Angeles, where she intends to use her feminine charms to move up in class. Over the course of the first half of the film there are flirtatious advances by each of them, ending with the other saying "it takes two". But ultimately they connect and get married only to discover that in their movement to the center they have passed the point of intersecting belief systems and actually switched places.

The young Dixon holds her own with McGraw and they effectively navigate the demands of playing characters whose principle characteristic is behaving out of character (huh?).

Also well written are the elements surrounding the investigation of the train robbery which is solved by good plausible detective work rather than by a lucky break or an illogical character development.

The last 20 minutes is a disappointment, as the film becomes a standard fugitive drama with no interesting twists. The device that leads to Joe's undoing has no symbolic significance inside the story and unlike the best of these things was not revealed in such a way that you could have foreseen its significance at the time it was first introduced. The low budget actually starts working against the production at this point as they stage some really lame car crash and chase sequences; finally ending up in the Los Angeles riverbed (a staple of 1950's productions-insert "Them" here). It does however provide a nice backdrop for the great closing shot (the shot they go out on), much like the way Polanski ends "Chinatown".

The car crash that Joe stages to cover his tracks is a brief bit of stock footage that bears no relationship to the setting or vehicle he sets up for the crash. This is inexplicable given that we are not talking about anything that would have taken a huge budget to stage realistically, and the producers missed an opportunity to showcase something visually interesting.

The weakest thing is crime boss Kendall Webb (Lowell Gilmore), a finishing school, smoking jacket style crime boss who at one point waxes on nostalgically about growing up juvenile detention facilities. You have to wonder why they didn't simply alter the script a bit to give Gilmore lines that were at least vaguely consistent with the way in which the director was having him play his character. If not it should have been trimmed during the editing process. Speaking of editing, watch for the glaring jump cut when Joe and Diane are talking to each other on the plane. If the production crew failed to get adequate coverage the editor should have cut-away to an ashtray or something; even a few frames of black would have been better than what was actually assembled.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.


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