Film Review – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)

THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974, USA, 165m, 15) ****
Action, Drama
dist. Twentieth Century Fox (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Warner Bros. / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Irwin Allen Productions; d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant (based on the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson); pr. Irwin Allen; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp (DeLuxe | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm version)); m. John Williams; ed. Carl Kress, Harold F. Kress; pd. William J. Creber; ad. Ward Preston.
cast: Steve McQueen (Chief O’Halloran), Paul Newman (Doug Roberts), William Holden (Jim Duncan), Faye Dunaway (Susan), Fred Astaire (Harlee Claiborne), Susan Blakely (Patty), Richard Chamberlain (Simmons), Jennifer Jones (Lisolette), O.J. Simpson (Jernigan), Robert Vaughn (Senator Parker), Robert Wagner (Dan Bigelow), Susan Flannery (Lorrie), Sheila Allen (Paula Ramsay (as Sheila Mathews)), Norman Burton (Giddings), Jack Collins (Mayor Ramsay), Don Gordon (Kappy), Felton Perry (Scott), Gregory Sierra (Carlos), Ernie F. Orsatti (Mark Powers), Dabney Coleman (Deputy Chief #1).
A fire breaks out in a state-of-the-art San Francisco high-rise building during the opening ceremony attended by a host of A-list guests. McQueen plays the overworked fire chief who along with the building’s architect (Newman) struggles to save lives and subdue panic while a corrupt, cost-cutting contractor (Chamberlain), son-in-law to builder Holden, tries to duck responsibility for the shortcuts he took that caused the disaster. Guillermin sustains the tension throughout this big production disaster movie, which along with producer Irwin Allen’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, is the best example of the 1970s disaster genre and needed the funding of two studios- Fox and Warner. A stellar cast – led by Newman and McQueen – adds considerably to the familiar elements. The photography and production values are first-rate and are enhanced by an excellent grandiose score from Williams. The action sequences, directed by Irwin Allen and photographed by Joseph F.Biroc, are effectively staged. It was Jennifer Jones’s final film.
AA: Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc); Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress); Best Music, Original Song (Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn for the song “We May Never Love Like This Again”)
AAN: Best Picture (Irwin Allen); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Fred Astaire); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (William J. Creber, Ward Preston, Raphael Bretton); Best Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Herman Lewis); Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams)

Film Review – EARTHQUAKE (1974)

EARTHQUAKE (1974, USA, 123m, PG) ***
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / The Filmakers Group; d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; pr. Mark Robson; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Williams; ed. Dorothy Spencer; pd. Alexander Golitzen; ad. E. Preston Ames.
cast: Charlton Heston (Graff), Ava Gardner (Remy), George Kennedy (Slade), Lorne Greene (Royce), Geneviève Bujold (Denise), Richard Roundtree (Miles), Marjoe Gortner (Jody), Barry Sullivan (Stockle), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Vance), Victoria Principal (Rosa), Walter Matthau (Drunk (as Walter Matuschanskayasky)), Monica Lewis (Barbara), Gabriel Dell (Sal), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (Chavez), Lloyd Gough (Cameron), John Randolph (Mayor), Kip Niven (Walter Russell), Scott Hylands (Asst. Caretaker), Tiger Williams (Corry), Donald Moffat (Dr. Harvey Johnson).
A major earthquake hits Los Angeles and various stock characters are thrown into the chaos and destruction. Successful architect Heston argues with his drunken and demanding wife, Gardner, who is also the daughter of his boss Greene.  Bujold is Heston’s distraction from his marriage. Kennedy is a cop suspended for insubordination. Roundtree is an Evel Knievel copyist assisted by Principal. Gortner is a loner army reservist who has fascist tendencies. As the personal dramas are explored, the city is shaken by tremors leading to the inevitable titular event. This is the kind of movie Roland Emmerich has made his fortune producing in more recent times. Here, pre-CGI, the scenes of huge destruction are technically well achieved for the period with some effective matte work and wall-shaking sound (Sensurround was a much-touted new approach to sonics, which ultimately never took). The cast is solid, although Gardner’s histrionics veer toward melodrama. The movie ends abruptly with most of the personal stories left unresolved. Additional footage was shot, without the involvement of Robson, for the 152m TV version.
AA: Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.); Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock)
AAN: Best Cinematography (Philip H. Lathrop); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Frank R. McKelvy); Best Film Editing (Dorothy Spencer)

Film Review – AIRPORT 1975 (1974)

AIRPORT 1975 (1974, USA, 107m, PG) **½
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Jack Smight; w. Don Ingalls (based on the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey); pr. William Frye; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Cacavas; ed. Terry Williams; ad. George C. Webb.
cast: Charlton Heston (Alan Murdock), Karen Black (Nancy Pryor), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Captain Stacy), Susan Clark (Helen Patroni), Helen Reddy (Sister Ruth), Linda Blair (Janice Abbott), Dana Andrews (Scott Freeman), Roy Thinnes (Urias), Sid Caesar (Barney), Myrna Loy (Mrs. Devaney), Ed Nelson (Major John Alexander), Nancy Olson (Mrs. Abbott), Larry Storch (Glenn Purcell), Martha Scott (Sister Beatrice), Jerry Stiller (Sam), Norman Fell (Bill), Conrad Janis (Arnie), Beverly Garland (Mrs. Scott Freeman), Linda Harrison (Winnie (as Augusta Summerland)), Guy Stockwell (Colonel Moss), Erik Estrada (Julio), Kip Niven (Lt. Thatcher), Charles White (Fat Man), Brian Morrison (Joseph Patroni, Jr.), Amy Farrell (Amy), Irene Tsu (Carol), Ken Sansom (Gary), Alan Fudge (Danton), Christopher Norris (Bette), Austin Stoker (Air Force Sgt.), John Lupton (Oringer), Gene Dynarski (1st. Friend), Aldine King (Aldine), Sharon Gless (Sharon), Laurette Spang (Arlene), Gloria Swanson (Gloria Swanson).
This first sequel to 1970’s AIRPORT follows the same formula. This time an in-flight collision incapacitates the pilots of an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Stewardess Black is forced to take over the controls, whilst on the ground her boyfriend Heston, a retired test pilot, tries to talk her through piloting and landing the 747 aircraft. The all-star cast make up the passengers, but they are a mere diversion from the main action taking place in the plane’s cockpit. Ingalls’ script distributes lines evenly amongst them but to little dramatic effect. The sub-plot regarding Blair’s character, in transit for a kidney transplant, fails to build any drama. Black gives the film’s strongest performance, adeptly conveying the fear and responsibility that rests on her shoulders, whilst Heston delivers his usual square-jawed heroics. The finale, despite its familiarity and inconsistent execution, does create some tension and ultimately the film is a mixed bag lacking the gloss of the original but being more concise. The aerial shots over Heber City, Utah and the Wasatch Mountains are stunningly photographed. Swanson’s final film and she reportedly wrote all her own dialogue. Followed by AIRPORT ’77 (1977).

Film Review – AIRPORT (1970)

AIRPORT (1970, USA, 137m, PG) ***
Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures / Ross Hunter Productions; d. George Seaton; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Arthur Hailey); pr. Ross Hunter; ph. Ernest Laszlo (Technicolor | 2.20:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Stuart Gilmore; ad. E. Preston Ames, Alexander Golitzen.
cast: Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero), Barry Nelson (Anson Harris), Dana Wynter (Cindy), Lloyd Nolan (Harry Standish), Barbara Hale (Sarah Demerest), Gary Collins (Cy Jordan), John Findlater (Peter Coakley), Jessie Royce Landis (Mrs. Harriet DuBarry Mossman), Larry Gates (Commissioner Ackerman), Peter Turgeon (Marcus Rathbone), Whit Bissell (Mr. Davidson), Virginia Grey (Mrs. Schultz), Eileen Wesson (Judy Barton).
The cycle of 1970s all-star, big-budget disaster movies began with this adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s best-selling novel. Lancaster plays the general manager of a Chicago-area airport, who must contend with a massive snowstorm and other issues, both work-related and personal, while the troubled Heflin threatens to blow up an airliner on a flight to Rome piloted by Martin. The first half of the film sets up the characters and their domestic situations and is deliberately paced by Seaton, who uses various split-screen techniques, skilfully edited by Gilmore, to help with pacing. His script is wordy, and dialogue is sometimes stilted as he often feels the need to explain airport protocol through character discussion. Lancaster is imposing and Martin plays the material deadly straight. Kennedy’s confident trouble-shooter, Joe Patroni, would go on to appear in all three sequels. The rest of the cast give solid if often earnest, performances and Hayes won an Oscar for her eccentric stowaway. The tension, aided by Newman’s vigorous score, builds in the final third as Heflin is discovered and the threat to the flight becomes real. The film inexplicably received ten Oscar nominations, but only Hayes picked up an award. Hailey was reportedly paid $500,000 for the screen rights. Henry Hathaway directed some of the outdoor winter scenes uncredited covering for a sick Seaton. This was the final film of both Heflin and Landis. Shot in 70 mm Todd-AO. Followed by three sequels: AIRPORT 1975 (1974), AIRPORT ‘77 (1977), and THE CONCORDE…AIRPORT ’79 (1979).
AA: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Helen Hayes).
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Maureen Stapleton); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (George Seaton); Best Cinematography (Ernest Laszlo); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Jack D. Moore, Mickey S. Michaels); Best Costume Design (Edith Head); Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, David H. Moriarty); Best Film Editing (Stuart Gilmore) and Best Music, Original Score (Alfred Newman).

TV Review – THE IPCRESS FILE (2022)

THE IPCRESS FILE (2022, UK, 6 x 45m, 15) **½
Drama, Thriller
dist. ITV (UK); pr co. Altitude Television/Turbine Studios; d. James Watkins; w. John Hodge (based on the novel by Len Deighton); exec pr. Will Clarke, John Hodge, Sanford Lieberson, Andy Mayson, Steven Saltzman, Hilary Saltzman, James Watkins; pr. Paul Ritchie; ph. Tim Maurice-Jones (Colour | 2.00:1); m. Tom Hodge; ed. Karl Rhys; pd. James Price; ad. Holly Morpeth, Ivan Veljaca.
cast: Joe Cole (Harry Palmer), Lucy Boynton (Jean Courtney), Tom Hollander (Major Dalby), Ashley Thomas (Paul Maddox), Paul Higgins (Minister), David Dencik (Col. Gregor Stok), Joshua James (Chico), Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (General Cathcart), Anastasia Hille (Alice), Brian Ferguson (Ian Randall), Matthew Steer (Professor Dawson), Nora-Jane Noone (Dr. Karen Newton), Corey Johnson (Capt. Skip Henderson), Irfan Shamji (Carswell), Anna Geislerová (Dr. Polina Lavotchkin), Urs Rechn (Housemartin), Paul Bazely (Morris), Marko Braic (Murray), Tamla Kari (Deborah), Mark Quartley (Pete), Alexandra Moen (Mrs. Dalby).
An ambitious, stylish, but often impenetrable adaptation of Len Deighton’s 1962 debut novel sees Joe Cole take on the iconic role of ex-smuggler Harry Palmer (played in the 1965 big-screen version by Michael Caine), who is turned into a reluctant spy at the centre of an undercover mission as the Cold War rages around him. When an important British nuclear scientist goes missing, Palmer’s links to the missing man send him on a dangerous mission around the world in a race against time to prevent vital information from falling into the wrong hands and triggering a global catastrophe. The rich period detail is perhaps at times overplayed – Boynton looks like she has wandered in from a Mary Quant photoshoot in every scene she is in – and Watkins’ penchant for using angular framing becomes disorientating and distracting through its persistence. Cole is excellent as Palmer, stamping his own quirky personality on the role, whilst referencing Caine’s iconic look. Where the production falls down is in the muddy complexity of the plot, which is difficult to follow. Individual scenes stand out but as a whole, the series demands a lot of its audience to sustain its interest and comprehension over 6 episodes. In Deighton’s books, Harry Palmer is not named. The character name used in the original movie is carried over here.

Film Review – PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943, USA, 92m, PG) ***
Drama, Horror, Music, Romance, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Arthur Lubin; w. Eric Taylor, Samuel Hoffenstein, Hans Jacoby (based on the novel “Le Fantôme de L’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux); pr. George Waggner; ph. W. Howard Greene, Hal Mohr (Technicolor | 1.37:1); m. Edward Ward; ed. Russell F. Schoengarth; ad. Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman.
cast: Nelson Eddy (Anatole Garron), Susanna Foster (Christine DuBois), Claude Rains (Erique Claudin), Edgar Barrier (Raoul Daubert), Leo Carrillo (Signor Ferretti), Jane Farrar (Biancarolli), J. Edward Bromberg (Amiot), Fritz Feld (Lecours), Frank Puglia (Villeneuve), Steven Geray (Vercheres), Barbara Everest (Aunt), Hume Cronyn (Gerard), Fritz Leiber (Franz Liszt), Nicki Andre (Lorenzi), Gladys Blake (Jeanne), Elvira Curci (Biancarolli’s Maid), Hans Herbert (Marcel), Kate Drain Lawson (Landlady), Miles Mander (Pleyel), Rosina Galli (Christine’s Maid).
Lavish production of Gaston Leroux’s novel in which the talented Christine (Foster) is unaware that her singing lessons are being funded by a secret admirer, Enrique (Rains), a mysterious violinist with a disfigured face. Christine’s colleagues become suspicious when mysterious accidents start occurring at the Paris Opera House, as the deaths coincide with her meteoric rise to stardom. Christine’s suitors, Raoul (Barrier) and Anatole (Eddy), brave the dark recesses of the opera house to find the true culprit. The film suffers from the imbalance of music to horror with the former creating some longueurs. Attempts at comedy also feel forced. Rains does his best, but his role lacks the motivation that was apparently evident in earlier drafts of the script. Some effective scenes do emerge, however – notably the chase through the flies and the finale in the Phantom’s lair. The extravagant and evocative art direction and crisp Technicolor cinematography deservedly won Oscars. Filmed many times before and since to varying degrees of success.
AA: Best Cinematography, Color (Hal Mohr, W. Howard Greene); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color (Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman, Russell A. Gausman, Ira Webb)
AAN: Best Sound, Recording (Bernard B. Brown (Universal SSD)); Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward Ward)

Film Review – HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016)

HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016, USA, 102m, 15) ****
Crime, Drama
dist. Lionsgate (USA), Studio Canal (UK); pr co. CBS Films / Sidney Kimmel Entertainment / MWM Studios / Film 44 / LBI Productions / Oddlot Entertainment; d. David Mackenzie; w. Taylor Sheridan; pr. Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Sidney Kimmel, Julie Yorn; ph. Giles Nuttgens (Colour | 2.35:1); m. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis; ed. Jake Roberts; pd. Tom Duffield; ad. Steve Cooper.
cast: Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Marin Ireland (Debbie Howard), John-Paul Howard (Justin Howard), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann), Kevin Rankin (Billy Rayburn), Ivan Brutsche (Buster), Heidi Sulzman (Ranger Margaret), Christopher W. Garcia (Randy Howard (as Christopher Garcia)), William Sterchi (Mr. Clauson), Dale Dickey (Elsie), Buck Taylor (Old Man), Kristin K. Berg (Olney Teller (as Kristin Berg)), Keith Meriweather (Rancher), Jackamoe Buzzell (Archer City Deputy), Amber Midthunder (Vernon Teller), Joe Berryman (Bank Manager), Taylor Sheridan (Cowboy).
Pine is a divorced father trying to make a better life for his son. His brother (Foster) is a hot-headed ex-convict with a loose trigger finger. Together, they plan a series of heists against the bank that’s about to foreclose on their family ranch. Standing in their way is Bridges, a Texas Ranger who’s only weeks away from retirement. As the siblings plot their final robbery, they must also prepare for a showdown with the crafty lawman who’s not ready to ride off into the sunset. The script adds layers of social commentary and character motivation to this otherwise familiar heist movie. Mackenzie’s sympathetic direction and willingness to develop the characters bring out the best in a strong cast. Bridges has fun essaying his long-in-the-tooth Texas Ranger who spars verbal insults at his half-breed sidekick Birmingham. Peppered with witty dialogue, this is a thoughtful and resonant tale.
AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jeff Bridges); Best Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Jake Roberts)

Film Review – FARGO (1996)

FARGO (1996, USA/UK, 98m, 18) *****
Crime, Drama
dist. Gramercy Pictures (USA), PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (UK); pr co. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment / Working Title Films; d. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; w. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; pr. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; ph. Roger Deakins (DuArt | 1.85:1); m. Carter Burwell; ed. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (both as Roderick Jaynes); pd. Rick Heinrichs; ad. Thomas P. Wilkins.
cast: Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson), William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), Steve Buscemi (Carl Showalter), Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson), Peter Stormare (Gaear Grimsrud), Steve Reevis (Shep Proudfoot), Kristin Rudrüd (Jean Lundegaard), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson), Tony Denman (Scotty Lundegaard), Gary Houston (Irate Customer), Warren Keith (Reilly Diefenbach (voice)), Larry Brandenburg (Stan Grossman), Bruce Bohne (Lou), Steve Park (Mike Yanagita), Cliff Rakerd (Officer Olson), Bain Boehlke (Mr. Mohra), James Gaulke (State Trooper), Sally Wingert (Irate Customer’s Wife), Bix Skahill (Night Parking Attendant), José Feliciano (José Feliciano).
This highly influential and blackly comic crime drama sees Minneapolis car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (Macy), desperate for money to clear his debts, hire two thugs (Buscemi and Stormare) to kidnap his own wife. Jerry will collect the ransom from her wealthy father (Presnell), paying the thugs a small portion and keeping the rest to satisfy his debts. The scheme collapses when the thugs shoot a state trooper and McDormand’s police chief leads the investigation. Full of nuanced observation and richly comic dialogue, the film sees the Coen Brothers fulfil their considerable potential. Roger Deakins’ cinematography beautifully contrasts the wide snowy landscapes, with the blood-red violence being committed within. McDormand, Macy, Stormare and Buscemi all give career-defining performances aided by a screenplay that is lean and perfectly balanced. A film that can be appreciated more and more through repeated viewings. Followed by a 60m pilot for a TV series, which didn’t sell, but a series was ultimately taken up in 2014.
AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
AAN: Best Picture (Ethan Coen); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (William H. Macy); Best Director (Joel Coen); Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins); Best Film Editing (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (both as Roderick Jaynes))

Film Review – BELFAST (2021)

BELFAST (2021, UK, 98m, 12) ****
Biography, Drama
dist. Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK), Focus Features (USA); pr co. TKBC; d. Kenneth Branagh; w. Kenneth Branagh; pr. Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik, Tamar Thomas; ph. Haris Zambarloukos (B&W/Colour | 1.85:1); m. Van Morrison; ed. Úna Ní Dhonghaíle; pd. Jim Clay; ad. Dominic Masters.
cast: Caitriona Balfe (Ma ), Jamie Dornan (Pa), Judi Dench (Granny), Ciarán Hinds (Pop), Jude Hill (Buddy), Lewis McAskie (Will), Josie Walker (Auntie Violet), Freya Yates (Cousin Frances), Nessa Eriksson (Cousin Vanessa), Charlie Barnard (Cousin Charlie), Frankie Hastings (Auntie Mary), Máiréad Tyers (Auntie Eileen), Caolan McCarthy (Uncle Sammie), Ian Dunnett Jnr (Uncle Tony), Michael Maloney (Frankie West), Lara McDonnell (Moira), Chris McCurry (Mr. Stewart), Rachel Feeney (Mrs Ford), Elly Condron (Mrs. Kavanagh), Drew Dillon (Mr. Kavanagh).
Branagh tells the story of his adolescent upbringing in Belfast during the troubles in the late 1960s. The film focuses on the impact that the escalating religious and political issues had on passive communities as seen through the eyes of 9-year-old Billy (engagingly portrayed by Hill). His working-class parents (Balfe and Dornan) are, like many, struggling to make ends meet with Dornan requiring taking work in England to pay off their debts. The closeness of the community and the family’s bond with Billy’s grandparents (Dench and Hinds) are strengths that enable them to live in the battle-torn streets. As the violence escalates and Dornan resists the pressures from the local protestant gang leader to swear his allegiance, the family must decide on its future. The film has no political points to make and instead throws light on the impact of the actions of the militant few on the peaceful many. The film merely intends to reflect philosophically on these issues, wonderfully expressed through Hinds, who delivers an understated but impactful performance. The film only falters when sentimentality creeps in from time to time with the need to create a feel-good factor to offset the horrors of the street violence, but otherwise, this is an honest and thought-provoking experience with moments of warm humour.

Film Review – THE GLASS KEY (1942)

THE GLASS KEY (1942, USA, 85m, PG) ***½
Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures; d. Stuart Heisler; w. Jonathan Latimer (based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett); ph. Theodor Sparkuhl (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Victor Young; ed. Archie Marshek; ad. Haldane Douglas, Hans Dreier.
cast: Brian Donlevy (Paul Madvig), Veronica Lake (Janet Henry), Alan Ladd (Ed Beaumont), Bonita Granville (Opal Madvig), Richard Denning (Taylor Henry), Joseph Calleia (Nick Varna), William Bendix (Jeff), Frances Gifford (Nurse), Donald MacBride (Farr), Margaret Hayes (Eloise Matthews), Moroni Olsen (Ralph Henry), Eddie Marr (Rusty), Arthur Loft (Clyde Matthews), George Meader (Claude Tuttle).
This complex film noir was the second adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1931 novel, which had previously been filmed in 1935 as a vehicle for George Raft. Donlevy is the crooked politician who finds himself being accused of the murder of the son of a prospective Baltimore governor by a gangster (Calleia) from whom he refused help during a re-election campaign. Ladd is Donlevy’s right-hand man who is encouraged by the victim’s sister (Lake) to find the real killer whilst protecting his boss’s interests. Ladd gets to essay his tough-guy persona, whilst Lake’s alluring performance and the pair’s obvious chemistry helps elevate the film’s stature. Bendix is also memorable as Calleia’s heavy – the beating he gives Ladd is particularly brutal. The plot twists, however, are perhaps too plentiful whilst Heisler’s direction and Latimer’s dialogue is often heavy-handed. The film’s production followed hot on the heels of the previous year’s successful adaptation of Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON. Ladd and Lake, who had earlier appeared in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), would go on to make seven movies together.