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T-Men

Dennis O'Keefe , Wallace Ford , Anthony Mann    Unrated   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Anthony Mann was a poverty-row director with ambition when he transformed this story of undercover Treasury agents (based on a collection of true cases) into a moody, alienated drama about two lawmen living a shadowed life in the underworld where a blown cover means death. Square-jawed Dennis O'Keefe, a former leading man turned beefy B movie tough guy, and Alfred Ryder star as the titular T-men who take over a counterfeiting investigation when their predecessor is killed, posing as street thugs to infiltrate their way into the gang and living the dangerous life of the gangster to the hilt. The documentary-style realism, with its authoritative narrator, location shooting, and stock-shot interludes of shuffling papers and laboratory testing, is given a nightmarish dimension with stark sets lit in claustrophobic shadows, creating an abstract, eerie emptiness. Penned by John C. Higgins (who wrote Mann's previous film, Railroaded!), and shot by the brilliant cinematographer John Alton, T-Men is raw in comparison to the smoother, more handsome studio noirs such as The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past. Saddled with often awkward dialogue and hackneyed narration, this low-budget gem derives its power from the brutal violence (often offscreen but no less unsettling for it) and spare style, and the desperation in the hard faces of the unglamorous actors. Mann, Alton, Higgins, and star O'Keefe reteamed for the moody Raw Deal the next year. --Sean Axmaker

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars UNEXPECTED NOIR GEM ON DVD May 30 2002
Format:DVD
VCI Entertainment, a small video company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is releasing DVDs of "RAW DEAL" and "T MEN," two forgotten noir B movie classics directed by Anthony Mann.
Allegedly taken from a closed Treasury Department file (the "Shanghia Paper" case), "T Men" (1947) is a clever crime drama that's shot in a documentary style for added realsim. The meticulously detailed set-up is kind of slow going, but the payoff is gangbusters (literally). Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder are Treasury agents who go undercover, disguised as mobsters, to infiltrate a ring of Detroit based liquor cutters known to be using bogus revenue stamps. The gang's savage leader has already killed a fellow T Man. For the agents, there is almost a perverse emphasis on how they must shut down all normal human feelings to successfully accomplish their missions -- even to the point of standing by while a fellow agent is executed in cold blood. There's no question about the dark noir terrain in this terrific little thriller that is all the more effective thanks to John Alton's brilliant, precise, geometrically composed cinematography.
A surprisingly gripping film with a stunning climax. Definitely worth considering if you're looking for those forgotten noir gems.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film noir classic Oct. 24 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Anthony Mann with no budget and not much of a script creates a terrific little thriller. There are simply classic sequences thanks to some brilliant cinematography.
The film is very episodic and does not realy hang together, but some of the shots are superb. The opening murder of an informant has one of the bext scenes where a murderer literally is absorbed by the darkness. The execution in the steam room is filled with horror. Anthony Mann showed all his potential as a director with this little B film. It is throughly recommended.
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By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Starting with what must have been a standard postwar script praising the feds (this time, the treasury department), the team of director Anthony Mann and director of photography John Alton turned this into one of the most memorable and seminal films of the noir cycle. The budget was shoestring but their love for their craft must have been extraordinary, because shot after shot triumphs as a little cinematographic wonder -- an object lesson in how to let pictures talk. As T-Men Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder plunge deeper into the counterfeiters' world, the action becomes increasingly edgy and violent, belying the syrupy patriotic music that puts us to sleep every time we flash back to Washington, D.C. As good as Mann's (and Alton's) other films can be, T-Men shows off their talents to exhilarating advantage. This is a must-see -- even a must-buy -- for anybody interested in this unparalleled and unforgettable decade of film history.
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