Monday, May 25, 2009

Desperate (1947)

Steve Brodie plays a hard-working WWII vet whose work is starting to pay off. He plans on getting a new place for his new bride and start a family. When an old friend calls him up for a trucking job, Brodie leaves his homey celebration for an easy 50 bucks, not knowing that he's going to be the wheelman in a heist. When he finds out, he manages to signal a passing policeman before he and his truck get hi-jacked at gunpoint. Unfortunately, the policeman dies and the gang boss' little brother has been captured, left alone to stand trial for murder. The boss figures the only way to get his brother off the hook is to have Brodie go in and confess. But Brodie doesn't want to go to jail, especially now that he's found out his wife is pregnant, so they hit the road. But with the mob and the cops on his tail and his need to steal and kidnap to get away, it's only a matter of time before the past catches up with him.

This is director Anthony Mann's first of at least six noir films, and one of his best, though little seen. Although he is probably best-know for his series of dark Westerns with Jimmy Stewart (and which you can see at the Dryden Theater Tuesdays in June), the beginnings of those tales of cowboy vengeance are seen in his noir films, and he is very good at it. One particular scene uses a light suspended from the ceiling to alternately show and hide the violence from the audience, allowing our imagination to fill in the blanks between the punches.

Another possible revelation to viewers unaccustomed with noir might be Raymond Burr. He's benign as the American stand-in in GODZILLA, and his size and girth were used to portray the kindness and safety of a big teddy bear in his Perry Mason years. But here, as the gang boss, he is the imposing monolith, his power amplified by his anger and his fists. He is also that which you cannot outrun. As physically large as he is, his influence is even bigger, and he can track you down, no matter where you run. Burr is good here, but he's also good in PITFALL, and the best thing in HIS KIND OF WOMAN. If you haven't yet, you should give yourself a chance to experience the dark side of Raymond Burr.

Judgment: Noir.


Charles benoit said...

It's now in my NetFlix cue.

One movie I can suggest you never see is this cult bomb, The Room. Saw it last night and am still considering tearing out my eyes.

Did enjoy Woody Allen's Match Point. Surprised at how dark it was. Love to hear your noir-focused review.

Charles benoit said...

I take that back. Apparently Desperate is not available.

Jared said...

Nope, it's not on DVD yet. If you keep your fingers crossed, though, I might be able to show it to you in January or February, though.