The film's plot keeps brisk pace with the visuals, focusing on the obsessive efforts of a tenacious detective (Cornel Wilde) to destroy a sadistic mobster (Richard Conte) whose vicious influence has nearly ruined the life of the woman (Jean Wallace) he keeps under his dark wing. Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman are nicely cast as the villain's toady henchmen, and Brian Donlevy's usual limitations serve him well as the humbled, frustrated kingpin who's been stifled by Conte's ambition. Director Joseph H. Lewis previously demonstrated his raw, stylistic vigor with the earlier cult favorite Gun Crazy, and here he's in peak form with a perfect match of subject and sensibility. The result is hard-boiled entertainment that still packs a punch. --Jeff Shannon
Film students take note:
There's obviously no money to spare here: the sets are all recycled from other B-pictures. What's impressive is how Lewis uses the same locations for multiple shots without and significant re-setting, he keeps his angles down and holds the long take. Alton helps with the right atmosphere and his wonderfully graphic compositions, and the cast get on board for the ride. You can almost see another "Gun Crazy" or "Raw Deal" emerging.
But the script is awful. In B-Movies, "Talk Is Cheap" - much cheaper than action, or scene changes. That's why Reservoir Dogs spends so much time in a warehouse (the similarities don't end there: in a scene of remarkable brutality Wilde is taped to a chair and tortured via a hearing air placed near his EAR!). But one of the problems with shooting few locations fast, is you need the dialog to fill the scenes.
It's just not here. The speeches (there isn't any conversation here, just hard-line pronouncements) are all tough-guy cliché: "he's the kind guy that blah blah blah, and blah blah, but blah blah, because mark my words, blah blah". They're not very good and they always go on for a few sentences -- or a page -- too long. Someone's always trying to stretch the analogy, or extend a metaphor, or get with the poetry of the streets. Nothing they say has anything to do with character. This the kind of juvenile dialog that turns up in parodies of old noire B-pics.Read more ›