Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crossfire. 1947

Looking like it cost a big 99 cents to make, but having the feel of a good kick to the head, this seminal noir was filmed in 1947 two years after the war and has everything one wants in a good film noir thriller, disgust, suspense, violence, shadows (the shadows in this one have shadows) a few Femme fatales (well actually one, but she’s a real dossy) claustrophobic spaces, dark villains, and a not so happy ending. Based on the novel The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks, before he became the movie director the film was directed by Edward Dmytryk, right before he was blacklisted and produced by RKO. In the book the murder victim was a homosexual but of course this had to be changed this being 1947 and homosexuality in movies and indeed in much of society was a big no no. So the victim went from Homo to Jew without a blink. Much rougher than the more A list more delicate other film that year to deal with anti-Semitism Gentleman’s Agreement which swept the Oscars, the film opens in a dark room where someone is getting badly beaten. The screen is almost divided in half so we can’t see much, but soon we see a couple of guys running out of the room, and a dead body is on the floor. The investigation begins with detective Robert Young leading the way who by the way is excellent in the role. No Father Knows Best- Marcus Welby here just a serious pipe smoking cop who never smiles and is dead serious about finding the murderer. The finger of guilt points to some soldiers just released from the service, who spend their days and nights hanging out in seedy hotels and getting drunk and the rest of the film is taken up with this investigation into guilt despair hatred and unease. The soldiers caught in the headlights are Robert Mitchum, looking beautiful and butch, topping off a very good year for him with this film, Out Of The Past and Pursued, Robert Ryan, (Oscar nominated for a supporting actor Oscar but losing out to Santa Claus) How does one compete against Santa? and a young and new actor whose first film this was George Cooper. Also thrown in the mix is B girl extraordinaire Gloria Grahame in a brief but salty performance (also Oscar nominated) as Ginny so nicknamed because she’s from Virginia, and her maybe husband, maybe not husband a terrific Paul Kelly, who brings to the role his real life problems. The film consists mostly of tight seedy dark interiors with maybe one or two exterior scenes, and none that I can recall that take place in the daytime. With great cinematography by the veteran cinematographer J. Roy Hunt who began shooting films in 1916 and who did mainly B movies and real cheapies. 1947 was probably the seminal year for film noir with nearly 20 noir films made including this one, Out of the Past, Kiss Of Death, The Big Clock, Nightmare Alley, Body and Soul, Boomerang, Dark Passage, Possessed, Pursued, The Unsuspected, Dead Reckoning, Born To Kill, The Man I Love, , Ride The Pink Horse, Brute Force, Railroaded, Lured, The Long Night and others. One of the ten best films of the year.


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