There’s so much pleasure in stumbling across a relatively lesser known noir that turns out to be darker, grimmer, and more hardboiled than one had been expecting. That this was also such a breezy ride through hell and back, made the experience all the more worthwhile. The quintessential noir theme of a man being forced to the edge of the rope by bad luck and the circumstances was used to excellent effect by Andre De Toth – Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson), a reformed criminal, leading a straight life with his lovely wife (Phyllis Kirk), is coerced into being part of a planned bank robbery by the ruthless Doc Penny (Ted de Corsia) and his psychotic henchmen (including one played by a very young Charles Bronson). Sergeant Sims (Sterling Hayden), a no-nonsense detective who regularly resorts to realpolitik in order to pursue his belief in end justifying the means, turns a blind eye to Lacey’s pleas of innocence as all he cares about is getting hold of a gang of serial robbers (Doc Penny and his guys) who have killed a cop. Thus ensues Lacey’s torment as his life starts sliding downward real fast. Hayden delivered a superb and near-explosive turn – one of the best of his career – as the jaded and cynical cop whose layer of humanity is concealed under his hardened exterior. Nelson and Corsia too gave eminently watchable turns. The film was excellently paced, with very well defined character arcs despite the crisp length, thus speaking volumes about the effectiveness of the script – more so given the action-packed nature of the serpentine and immensely engaging plot. Great atmosphere was also created thanks to the expert photography.
Director: Andre De Toth
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Film Noir