Robert Siodmak

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6.8 Cobra Woman (1944)
6.5 Phantom Lady (1944)
7.0 Suspect (1944)
6.5 Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)
7.2 Dark Mirror (1946)
7.4 Spiral Staircase (1946)
7.2 Killers (1946)
7.0 Criss Cross (1948)
6.5 Cry of The City (1948)
6.5 The File on Thelma Jordan (1949)

Robert Siodmak (Germany, 1900) relocated to France after the rise of Nazism. In Germany he had time to dabble in expressionist theater, collaborated with Edgar Ulmer on the influential documentary Menschen am Sonntag/ People on Sunday (1929), co-written by Billy Wilder and Siodmak's brother Curt Siodmak, filmed by cameramen Eugen Schuefftan and Fred Zinnemann, and then he directed the melodrama Abschied/ Farewell (1930), his first "talkie", the comedy Der Mann, der seinen Moerder sucht/ The Man in Search of His Murderer (1931), also co-written by Billy Wilder, as well as the film noirs Voruntersuchung/ Inquest (1931) and Stuerme der Leidenschaft/ Storms of Passion (1932), besides literary adaptations such as Brennendes Geheimnis/ The Burning Secret (1933), from a Stefan Zweig's short story. In France he adapted theatrical plays (Le Sexe Faible/ The Weaker Sex, 1933) novels (Ultimatum, 1938) and operettas (Parisian Life , 1936, his first English-language film), made the thrillers Mister Flow (1936), Cargaison Blanche/ White Cargo (1937), Mollenard (1938) and Pieges/ Personal Column (1939).

When Germany invaded France, he moved to the USA, where he immediately found work, starting with the comedy West Point Widow (1941) and the horror movie Son of Dracula (1943), and soon specialized in film noirs characterized by morbid atmosphere and impeccable staging.

The exotic adventure movie Cobra Woman (1944) is a poetic fairy tale in which twin princesses, one good and sweet and the other evil and tyrannical, fight on a haunted island. It includes a famous snake-dance by Maria Montez.

Phantom Lady (1944), an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's novel, is a thriller inspired by Freudian theories of madness. The implausible plot (particularly the ending) detracts from the ingenious idea.

A mysterious lady enters a bar, visibly distressed. A man approaches at the counter and invites her to a musical. She accepts, but only if he agrees that they remain strangers. No names are exchanged. At the theater, the drummer keeps staring at her. Then she leaves, refusing to reveal her name, as mysteriously as she appeared.
The man, Scott, walks home and finds three men who look like thugs. They are police officers: his wife has been murdered, strangled with one of his ties. He admits that he had an argument with her just before she was murdered, but cannot prove where he was that night. His alibi (that he doesn't know the name of the woman he spent the evening with) is not convincing. Neither the barmaid nor the cab driver remember seeing the woman. He tries in vain to find her, but fails. The jury finds him guilty and he ends up in jail. The only person who believes his story is his secretary Carol, who must be seriously attached to him (she almost cried when she heard of the murder). She lost her job (since her boss is now in jail), but she decides to stay in town and do her own investigation. She spends her evenings at the bar, staring at the barmaid, who soon begins to feel uncomfortable. One night she follows him into the subway. It looks like he is about to push her under the train, but at the last second someone walks in. She keeps following him until he snaps. She tries to make him admit that someone bribed him, but he runs away and is killed by a car. Back home, she finds the inspector waiting for her. He has switched sides and now believes Scott is innocent. He provides her with the address of the drummer, who testified that there was no woman with Scott at the theater. Carol lets the drummer seduce her and take her to his apartment. Then she extorts a confession: someone paid him a lot of money to lie at the trial. But the drummer sees a piece of paper from the police in her purse and understands that he is being set up. She runs away and calls the inspector. In the meantime, a man walks into the drummer's apartment and strangles him. When the inspector arrives, they find the dead body.
The following day Scott receives a visit at the jail from his old partner Jack: he is the same man who strangled the drummer. Jack claims to have just returned from Brazil to help Scott. Carol briefs him up, and confesses how much she always loved Scott. She isn't even afraid of being killed for him. She is only afraid that the only witness, the mysterious woman, might be killed if the killer finds her before she finds her. Finding that woman is also Jack's intention, but precisely to kill her. The only distinctive feature of that phantom lady was her hat, a rather unique hat, wore (in theory) only by a famous singer. The trio of Carol, Jack and the inspector try to find out more about the hat in the singer's dressing room, and the inspector notices that Jack has a dizzy spell while they are talking about madness.
While the inspector is out of town, Carol finds out the name of the store that made the hat for a famous singer. One of the women who work at the store admit making an illegal copy of the hat for a customer. Jack takes Carol to see this woman. She is gone insane after her fiance' left her before the wedding, but Carol at least gets hold of the hat, which could reopen the case. Jack make sher believe that he called the inspector with the news, and the inspector will be meeting them at Jack's house. Now he is alone with her, and has his chance to kill her. While he is having one of dizzy spells, she finds items in one of his drawers that reveal how he has been after the same witnesses she was: the only other person who could had had that interest is the murderer. She tries to call the inspector, but in vain. Jack is closing in on her in the dark room with a tie in his hand, but (of course) the inspector arrives just in time. Jack prefers to jump from the window than be arrested.
Scott is released and he proposes to the faithful secretary.

Suspect (1944), adapted from James Ronald's novel "This Way Out" (1939), is another film noir but an elegant one, set in the Victorian era, and with an interesting moral perspective (the killer is a good man who has killed two bad people and eventually gets caught precisely because he's a good man).

In 1902 in London a gentle man, Philip (Charles Laughton), is married to a petulant woman, Cora. Their son John can't stand it anymore and leaves the house, and Philip, equally fed up, decides to move into the son's room. Philip is the manager of a tobacco shop. One day a young woman comes looking for a job: Mary is a stenographer who knows how to use the new invention, the typewriter, but Philip tells her that his shop has no need for such invention. Philip sees her crying on a bench and stops to console her and even buys her dinner at a Chinese restaurant. He keeps seeing her, taking her to the ballet and to the circus, and finds her a job. He wants to keep the relationship platonic and secret, and doesn't explain why. One night Philip returns home to find his room locked: his wife is tired that he always comes home late at night. Philip begs her for a divorce. Mary lives in a boarding house for women and tells them about her odd relationship with an older man who has a son. That night Cora follows Philip to see where he goes but he loses her. He meets Mary in an Italian restaurant. Mary is hoping that he's ready to propose. Instead he has decided to break up and confesses that he is married. He feels that continuing to see her would hurt her reputation. Cora finds out Mary's name, address and workplace. Cora swears revenge against Mary. We see Philip grabbing a cane and then we see townsfolks discussing the Cora's funeral: she died falling down the stairs. After the funeral a suspicious police inspector comes to visit Philip and correctly reconstructs how Philip killed Cora, but he hasn't found a motive to justify his murder theory. Philip realizes that, even now that his wife is dead, he should never see Mary again because their relationship would provide the motive. The inspector, however, has already found out. When Mary, unable to keep the distance, finally approaches Philip, the inspector sees them. The inspector visits Mary at the boarding house and tells her that she will be called as a witness at the trial. Just then Philip shows up and informs the inspector that they just got married: the wife cannot be called to testify against the husband. His envious neighbor Gilbert, a jobless drunkard with a charming wife, asks Philip for money but Philip dislikes him. The inspector tells Gilbert of his suspicions and Gilbert gets excited at the idea of hurting Philip. Gilbert sees an opportunity to blackmail Philip: he threatens to tell the police that he heard incriminating sounds the night of Cora's death (an argument, cries, a blow). Philip realizes that Gilbert will keep asking for more and more money, so he gives Gilbert a poisoned drink. Philip hides the body behind a couch before Mary and his son John and other friends arrive. He then tells Mary that he wants to move to Canada, where John has to start a new job. She gets excited at the idea. When she goes to sleep, Philip disposes of the dead body. The following day the police are investigating Gilbert's mysterious disappearance. Gilbert's wife, who has suffered all her married life, confesses to Philip that she wishes Gilbert would not come back. Philip and Mary are ready to board the ship to Canada when the inspector informs Philip that the dead body was found in a canal and that Gilbert was murdered with poison... by his wife. The ship sails away. The inspector comments that he trusts Philip's conscience will make him confess rather than let an innocent be sentenced to death. In fact, Philip has not boarded the ship. He has fallen into the inspector's trap. The film ends with Philip walking alone, presumably, towards the police station.

Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945), again a film noir;

Spiral Staircase (1945), a Hitchcockian thriller adapted from a novel by Ethel Lina White, is a concentrate of suspenseful scenes.

At the beginning of the century, a simple girl, Helen, is watching a silent movie in an improvised movie theater. In a room upstairs, a man hiding in a closet spies a crippled girl who is getting dressed and then kills her. The audience hears the noise. When the police detective arrives, he mentions this is the third murder of this kind. The simple girl is shocked, and the detective tells her to hurry up because she lives outside town. A young doctor walks in to see if he can help and is confronted by the old doctor of the town, who doesn't appreciate his competition. The young doctor rides the simple girl home in his horse carriage. He romances the girl, who cannot answer him: she is a mute. A child stops the doctor, asking him to see his father who is sick. The girl has to walk home by herself while rain starts pouring down and the lightnings light the sky. Helen arrives at the creepy big old mansion while a man is walking outside. She is welcomed by the housemaid, who discusses the murders (all the victims were girls with physical defects). Then they hear knocks at the door, but it turns out it is a window opened by the wind. Unseen by them, a man is staring at the girl. The girl visits the sick lady of the house, a widow, who is in bed in the room upstairs, guarded by an old nurse. Helen is only a maid, but the old lady treats her like a daughter. She tells Helen that she is in danger in that house.
The detective comes to warn the head of the house, Albert, a writer, the step-son of the old lady. Albert has a beautiful secretary, Blanche, who is romanced by Albert's stepbrother Steve, just returned from Paris, who sneaks into the room where she is working while Albert is talking with the detective. Albert sees them kissing. The detective leaves after warning that Helen could be the next victim of the psychopath, and Albert tells Helen "don't trust anyone".
There is hatred and distrust in the family. The lady holds a grudge against Albert, and makes ominous statements. Albert, who has cared all the time for his step-mother, resents Steve, am obnoxious dandy who never cared and now has seduced his secretary. And now Steve has also lied to the police, pretending he never left the house when in fact he did leave the house.
When he comes to visit her, the old lady begs the young doctor to take Helen away, knowing that he loves her. The doctor thinks that there might be a cure for Helen's muteness. He found out the Helen lost her speech when, a child, she saw her parents burn alive in their house. The doctor would like Helen to leave immediately, both to escape the danger that the old lady keeps referring to and to see a doctor in the big city. Steve makes insolent fun of the doctor's idea and of his romantic motives, and the doctor almost hits him. The promises Helen to return shortly, but has to take off to see another patience. Before walking out of the door into the rain, he kisses her. Helen goes in her room and starts packing.
In a dark room, Blanche is scared by someone. When she sees him, she recognizes him and smiles. But he kills her.
After upsetting her nurse, who promises to leave, the old lady tells Helen that a girl was once murdered in that mansion. Helen walks down the staircase and finds the dead girl. Steve walks in, all wet, and tells Helen to let him handle the situation. She finds a way to lock Steve in a room and runs upstairs. She tries to call the police but can't talk. She meets Albert and writes on a piece of paper what happened. But she soon realizes that Albert is the real murdered: he is delirious and wears black gloves. She has locked up the only person who could save her, Steve. Albert confesses he killed Blanche out of jealousy. Helen hides in the old lady's room, but the woman is asleep. Helen looks for a gun that the lady keeps in her room. Someone knocks at the front door of the mansion: it's the police detective delivering the message that the young doctor cannot leave his patience and won't be able to pick up Helen as promised. Helen tries in vain to draw his attention, but she can't talk and all the noise she makes is lost in the storm. Albert chases her up the staircase. The old lady is standing at the top with a gun in her hand: she kills her step-son, and Helen screams. The old lady has always known: there were seven victims before, not just three. Helen frees Steve and then picks up the phone: she is talking.

Dark Mirror (1946), adapted from a story by Vladimir Pozner, psychological thriller that toys with the topic of the doppelganger. It is not only that it's a film about twins but one of the twins has a split personality. At beginning we think that the thriller is a typican "whodunit" about a murder but soon the thriller becomes about a sister destroying the other sister.

The film opens with the camera exploring a room in the middle of the night and showing us a dead body. A police detective, Stevenson, interrogates the last people to see the man, a doctor: they all saw him with his girlfriend Theresa/ Terry. The secretary of the murdered doctor tells the inspector that the man was about to propose to the girl. All the witnesses identify the girl who runs a newstand at the first floor of a high-rise building. The detective interrogates her and finds that she has a terrific alibi, corroborated by a number of reliable witnesses. She faints when the detective tells her that the doctor was murdered. The detective is puzzled that so many witnesses saw her at the doctor's place and so many saw her, at the same time, in a completely different place. The detective, suspicious, visits the girl and sees that she's left-handed: the coroner determined that the doctor was stabbed by a right-handed person. Everything points at Terry's innocence. And then the detective hears the voice of another woman and discovers that Terry lives with... a twin sister. The girls, Terry and Ruth, confess that they share the same job and sometimes switch places. They refuse to admit who was at the park because they realize that the othre one would become a suspect. Terry is the strong one, and stands up to the detective's threats: the police cannot arrest either of them because neither of them cannot be uniquely identified. A psychologist, Scott, testifies that the murdered doctor had asked him about cases of split personality. Scott has written a book on twins. Scott testifies that one of the girls is a very sweet person but he can't tell which one. The detective asks Scott to study the girls so he can determine which one is the sweet one. Scott pretends to have a mere scientific interest and convinces the girls to submit to his study and offers them money. Ruth is opposed, but Terry thinks they can use the money. When Scott leaves, Ruth tells Terry that she is worried about Scott figuring out that Terry is the one who was with the doctor the night of the murder, but Terry is not afraid. By showing them abstract pictures and recording their impressions, Scott determines that Ruth is the sweet one (we too). When Ruth gets too crazy about Scott's manners, Terry warns her that Scott may not be truthful about his intentions, treating her like a child. Scott tells the detective that one of the two girls is very intelligent but also insane, but doesn't tell him which one. Terry gets nervous about Ruth's sessions with Scott, sensing that they like each other. Terry psychoanalyzes Ruth as much as Scott does. Terry's jealousy begins to sound dangerous. Scott begins to realize that the cunning Terry has manipulated the sweet and naive Ruth all her life, in particular making her reject all her prospects for marriage. One night Terry sees Scott kissing Ruth. She then asks Ruth and Ruth lies about the kiss. Terry instills in Ruth the suspicion that she, Ruth, is the insane one. When Scott declines to have a date with her, Terry gets even more jealous. Scott submits Terry to a polygraph test too and then confirms his suspicion that Terry manipulated Ruth all her life. At night Terry flashes a light and then denies that it happened so that Ruth thinks she's having hallucinations. Scott has concluded his study and tells the inspector that Ruth is incapable of killing whereas Terry is a dangerous paranoid. Scott calls Ruth and asks to see her alone... but he's talking to Terry. Ruth shows up at Scott's office and he realizes that Terry is playing with Ruth. Scott takes Ruth out on a date. Scott calls the inspector and tells him that he is setting up a trap for Terry. Ruth returns home and Terry goes out to meet Scott. Terry walks into Scott's apartment pretending to be Ruth and asks Scott why he prefers her, Ruth, to Terry. Scott tells Terry (who is pretending to be Ruth) that Terry is sick and needs help. And then tells her that he knows she is Terry and confronts her directly. Scott tells Terry that he knows she has been motivated all her life by her jealousy that people always preferred Ruth over her; and that she killed the doctor for the same reason. Just then the inspector calls that he found Ruth dead: Terry has pushed Ruth to suicide. The phone call probably saves Scott's life because Terry was eyeing the scissors on his desk with a murderous look. Scott and Terry rush to the apartment, where the inspector is waiting. Terry now concocts the story that Ruth killed the doctor and committed suicide out of guilt, and that Ruth was in reality... Terry. Terry now claims to be Ruth, and that she knows that Terry was sick. Terry claims to be Ruth even in Stevenson's presence. Terry continues in her delirious impersonation of Ruth while behaving very much like the neurotic and paranoid one. Just then Ruth shows up, very much alive, but devastated by Terry's indirect confession: Terry basically described herself and all the evil she did to Ruth. It was a trap and Terry fell into it.

Killers (1946), adapted by John Huston from an Ernest Hemingway story, is shot like a documentary-style police thriller, but it's virtuoso element is that the story is told in a series of flashbacks, each flashback adding a piece of the puzzle. When the puzzle is complete, we realize that it was also a film noir (the life of a naive man destroyed by a cunning femme fatale).
This lengthy and complex film is a series of flashbacks that piece together the pieces of the puzzle. The goal of the thriller is not to find out "who" killed Lancaster, but "why" he was killed. It is not a hunt for the killer, but a hunt for the motive. And in that way it becomes a hunt for the victim's identity, a hunt for the "mistake" that cost him his life.

(Click here for the original Italian text)

Two hitmen, Max and Al, enter a diner in the middle of the night and inform the owner that they are there to kill Pete, a gas station attendant nicknamed "The Swede", on behalf of a friend. The owner tells them that the man won't show up that night and they leave. A friend of the Swede who is in the diner rushes to warn Pete (Burt Lancaster), but Pete is resigned to get killed for something wrong that he did. The two hitmen walk into his room and kill him. The sheriff is not too motivated to find the killers, who was a loner but a life insurance investigator, Jim, is more motivated. His friend testifies that a few days earlier Pete was working at a gas station when a stranger showed up and asked him to check the car. Pete suddenly felt sick and never came back to work. Jim meets the beneficiary of the Swede's policy, an old woman nicknamed Queenie. She recognizes the dead man as a hotel guest years earlier who stayed under a different name. She has no idea why he left her as the beneficiary but she remembers that one day his room was a mess and he was smashing everything desperate that a woman had left him and he even tried to kill himself and mumbled several times "Charleston was right". Jim is puzzled that two hitmen would kill a man without stealing anything. His secretary finds out that the Swede was a former boxer with a criminal record. Jim visits the cop who arrested the Swede, aka Ole, years earlier. It turns out the cop was a childhood friend of Ole. The cop recounts Ole's last boxing match with a woman anxious in the crowd: Ole never used his right hand because it was bandaged. The doctor diagnosed a permanent injury. The cop offered him a job at the police department but Ole refused. The woman, Lily, was Ole's girlfriend, and now is the cop's wife. Lily tells Jim how one night Ole takes her to a club where he met the sexy Kitty, the woman who seduced him. The cop then recounts that, already married with Lily, one day he caught Kitty wearing a stolen jewel and was about to arrest her when Ole interfered. Ole took the blame for the theft and spent three years in prison. At Ole's funeral the cop tells Jim that one of the people attending it is Charleston. Jim gets Charleston drunk so he tells his story. He was in jail with Ole for two years. Kitty dumped him while Ole was in jail. When Ole was released, he was summoned by mobster Big Jim and found that Kitty had become Big Jim's girlfriend. Big Jim organized a caper. Ole accepted to participate with two other gangsters, Blinky and Dum Dum. The caper was successful. The insurance detective investigates and discovers that it took place the same day that Ole checked into Queenie's hotel with a woman, presumably Kitty. The cop calls Jim and tells him that one of Big Jim's men, Blinky, is dying at the hospital, mortally wounded by a hitman. Blinky is delirious. He talks about the caper. The night before the caper Ole caught Big Jim cheating at cards. So there was already bad blood between them. Then after the caper Big Jim was splitting the loot with the other two (Blinky and Dum Dum) without Ole when Ole suddenly showed up angry and stole all the loot. The detective waits in Ole's room and sure enough another gangster, Dum Dum, shows up, looking for the loot that Ole took. The detective interrogates him at gunpoint. Dum Dum swears that he didn't kill Ole. He disarms the detective and escapes. The detective tracks down and interrogates Big Jim. Big Jim has no idea where Kitty is. The detective tells him that most likely she is the one who incited Ole to steal the loot and then disappeared with the loot herself. The detective spreads the rumor that he's ready to deliver his evidence against Kitty to the police and sure enough Kitty calls him. They meet in a restaurant. She claims she doesn't have the money. She started a new life, a clean life with a husband, and wants to protect it. Therefore she tells the detective everything she knows. The night after the caper she told Ole that Big Jim was double-crossing him and told Ole where to find Big Jim and the other two. In reality she was sent by Big Jim to simply deliver the location of the meeting, but she invented the double-crossing story in order to have Ole take all the money and elope with her. She was the one double-crossing everybody. After her plan worked, she met Ole in Queenie's hotel room. Their meeting is rudely interrupted by the hitmen of the first scene, who enter the restaurant and attack the detective. He saves himself but then realizes that Kitty has escaped. The detective then finds that Dum Dum has tried to kill Big Jim and Big Jim has killed him. Big Jim lies mortally wounded. Kitty arrives too. The detective now reveals that he knows who Kitty's husband is: Big Jim himself. Big Jim architected everything to avoid splitting the loot with the others: he had Kitty turn Ole against all of them and then she stole the loot from Ole, while the others thought that Ole had it. Big Jim dies confessing why he had Ole killed: Blinky and Dum Dum spent all those years thinking that Big Jim had the money, and sooner or later they would have found out that Ole didn't have it, and then they would have guessed that Big Jim and Kitty fooled them. Kitty begs in vain her husband to lie about her involvement so that she doesn't have to face justice, but he dies. All of his came to light because of Ole's odd appointment of a beneficiary, as if Ole had planned that after his death the insurance detective would dig up the truth and punish the couple who had double-crossed him.

Cry of The City (1948), adapted by by Ben Hecht from Henry Helseth's novel "The Chair for Martin Rome" (1947), is another melodramatic film noir, and a socially-aware police thriller. The plot is the stereotypical story of two childhood friends who become gangster and cop, and it is not always plausible.

Martin is dying. Two detectives, Candella and his partner, are at his deathbed while the priest is praying with the family. We learn that the man just held up a restaurant and killed a cop after a five-year crime spree. His teenage girlfriend Teena comes to visit him but flees before the detectives can talk to her. A lawyer, Niles, begs to talk to him: he wants Martin to confess that he killed someone for whose murder an innocent is going to be executed, but Martin refuses. The surgeon saves his life. Candella shows up again at the hospital. He and Martin are childhood friends. He asks Martin about a ring that was found on him: the ring came from the loot of a robbery in which an old lady was tortured and killed. Martin claims that he won the ring at a crap game from the man who is currently accused of that murder, the man defended by Niles. Candella wants to find the mysterious girl, Teena, who visited him, suspecting that she may be the accomplice in the murder (the cops somehow know that there was a woman helping the killer). When Candella and his partner leave, Martin begs the good nurse to deliver a note to his girl Teena. The lawyer Niles comes back offering to defend Martin and offering money if he confesses to the robbery and murder, but Martin refuses and claims he just didn't commit the crime and wouldn't even be able to show the loot. The lawyer can even provide some of the loot, and we understand that the corrupt lawyer knows that his client is actually the real criminal and is taking advantage of Martin's situation: Martin will be executed for killing the cop but he may be spared if he confesses to another crime. Martin still refuses to help. The lawyer threatens to deliver Teena to the cops, and then Martin tries to kill him. Meanwhile, Candella visits Martin's Italian parents. Martin's mother calls him Vittorio, a sign that she has known him since he was a child. Candella wants to find Martin's girl. Martin's parents are honest immigrants, but Martin's younger brother Tony hates him. Martin is transferred to a prison. An old prisoner admires him and shows him how to unlock the cell's door with a spoon. Candella confronts his old friend Martin and reminds him how Martin always despised honest work since they were children. Martin realizes that Candella has found out about Teena. The following day Martin escapes (despite having just recovered from surgery). Candella and his partner patrol Teena's place and see Martin's little brother Tony coming out of it. Tony calls Martin to tell him that he didn't find Teena. Tony is in Niles' office, threatening Niles with a knife if he doesn't give him the money he needs to flee with Teena. Martin forces him to open the safe and finds the jewels of the loot. He then forces Niles to confess who was the girl that was at the murder and Niles utters the name Rose. Niles pulls out a gun from a drawer, Martin kills him with the knife, the gun accidentally shoots and kills Niles' secretary. Martin tries to hide in his family's home. His leg is now hurting and he needs rest, but his parents want him out. Candella comes, looking for Tony. Martin pulls out his gun and flees. Candella respects his mother and avoids any shooting in her house. Martin's friend Brenda finds out who Rose is: a former singer who now runs a massage parlor. Martin faints in the back of her car. Brenda hires a veterinarian who examines the unconscious Martin in the back of her car. Martin is now awake again (miracles of medicine). Brenda drives him to the massage parlor. The masculin Rose recognizes him immediately. Martin tells Rose that he has hidden the jewels in the locker of a subway station. He offers her the jewels in exchange for money and a way out of the country. She agrees but first she wants to see the jewels. He tells her that he needs to sleep and the deal is postponed to the following morning. Candella is still looking for Martin in the middle of the night. Candella has a personal motive to arrest Martin: the longer Martin is free the more heroic he looks to his brother Tony. In the morning Candella guesses that Martin must have been treated by an illegal doctor and eventually finds the veterinarian who leads Candella to Brenda. Martin calls Candella and tells him to arrest Rose at the subway station: he has set up a trap for Rose, which would also exonerate Teena. Rose has the money and tickets but refuses to give them to Martin before seeing the jewels, so Martin has to walk into his own trap knowing that Candella is watching the locker. When the cops arrest Rose, Martin hides. She shoots at Martin but instead wounds Candella and Martin can escape. Candella leaves the hospital without telling anyone. He is obviously still chasing Martin. Candella finds out that Teena has been hiding all the time at the nurse's apartment (it's a mystery how Candella found out that the nurse hid Teena). The nurse tells Candella that Teena has been taken by Tony to a church to meet Martin. Martin, who steal has no money, asks Tony to steal their mother's savings, and for the first time Tony is reluctant to help him. Teena too is now reluctant to live with Tony, double murderer. A bleeding Candella finds them. Candella tells Teena all the people who suffered because of Tony's actions. Teena walks out of the church. Candella arrests Martin without even pulling out the gun but right outside the church Martin realizes that Candella is about to faint, hits him and limps away. Candella finds enough strength to shoot and kills him. Tony finds Martin dead and helps Candella walk away.

The Great Sinner (1949) was a loose adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel "The Gambler".

Criss Cross (1949), an adaptation of Don Tracy's novel (1934), halfway between a caper film and a film noir, is mainly the portrait of a loser who is helpless in the face of the treachery of a femme fatale. This is perhaps the peak of the painstaking realism of his quasi-documentarian style.

Steve (Burt Lancaster) is about to take part in a robbery, a joint venture with a man he hates, Slim, the one who stole his wife Anna. Anna promises he will elope with him after the robbery. Slim is the owner of a night club, who is planning to leave the city for good. A police detective hangs out hoping to nail Slim, whom he suspects correctly of being a gangster.
Steve's job is to drive an armored truck. As he starts driving the truck on the fateful day of the robbery, a flashback shows how he tried to get a new life after Anna divorced him, but just couldn't give her up. So he came back, moved in again with his family, and started seeing his ex-wife again. But she has no intention of losing the wealthy life that the local mobster, Slim, can guarantee, so she marries him (the night she has a date with Steve, without even telling him). In no time at all, they met again and she fooled him again. She told him that she married Slim out of disgust for his family and out of fear: Steve's old friend Pete, now a police detective, had threatened to arrest her if she did't leave Steve alone. She behaves as if it was his fault that she betrayed him again, and as if she were now desperate. Steve tells his friend Pete to stay out of his life and goes back to Anna. Slim catches them together, but Steve claims he is planning a hold-up and wants Slim to participate. Steve, Slim and an old expert plan the heist around the table, while Anna looks over their shoulder. It sounds like an impossible mission, but Steve convinces them that it is possible with inside help. During a break, Anna and Steve whisper to each other like secret lovers.
Back to the present, Steve is driving the armored truck, planning to doublecross Slim and run away with Anna. Instead, it is Slim who doublecrosses him: he attacks him after throwing tear gas bombs, but Steve throws the money back into the truck. He shoots and kills two of Slim's men, but he is hit and faints. When he wakes up, he is at the hospital. Everybody thinks he is a hero, that he fought the robbers. But the money disappeared. Everybody except Pete, who has figured out the truth. Steve refuses to confess, but Pete scares him: if Anna doublecrossed him again, then she and Slim are already far away; but if she doublecrossed Slim, if she was truly waiting for Steve, then Slim will soon come to kill him. Steve bets that Anna stuck to his plan and is waiting for him. When a man comes to kidnap him and take him to Slim, Steven bribes him to drive instead to Anna's hideout. Anna is furious that he basically just told Slim where she is hiding, and she decides to run away... alone. Too late: Slim is already there, and kills them both.

The File on Thelma Jordan (1949) is another suspenseful noir.

In the district attorney office Cleve is drinking and discussing his miserable domestic life with a colleague. Over the phone his wife Pam sounds as excited as him about him going home. His colleague leaves, and Cleve is alone in the office when a woman walks in to complain about attempted burglaries at the home of her rich aunt. Cleve is drunk and makes scurrilous comments. At first Thelma (Barbara Stanwyck) walks out but then accepts to have a drink with him in a bar. He tells her about his unhappy marriage and kisses her. The next morning the whole story is turned upside down: a sober Cleve behaves like a gentleman with Thelma and like a good husband with Pam. However, as soon as the wife leaves, Cleve calls Thelma and they arrange for a meeting. When they kiss good night, a man sees them. The man doesn't say a word about what he saw and he too kisses her. During their following date Thelma tells Cleve that she too is stuck in an unhappy marriage, compounded by the fact that she has to take care of her rich aunt. They decide to flee the town together. The very night when they are supposed to leave, the aunt hears someone break into the house, and is shot dead. Thelma finds the body. When Cleve calls her to find out why she's late, she asks him to rush to the house. Cleve finds plenty of odd facts at the scene of the crime, but blames them on Thelma's panic attack. Cleve realizes that Thelma could be accused of the crime because she tampered so much with the scene, and helps her create a credible scene. They work frantically before the guardian comes looking for the old lady and finds the body. The next day the police accuse Thelma of the murder after finding out about the many phone calls that she received from a mysterious man (CLeve). Cleve is called to investigate while he is at the beach with his wife, and Pam, heartbroken, senses that he has no desire to stay with her. He admits that he is having an affair with another woman. The police find out that the mysterious man has given Thelma a huge sum to pay for her legal expenses. At the same time Pam finds out that Cleve has given his lover a huge sum, and Pam is afraid that he might be using him. At the trial Cleve manages to be appointed in charge of the prosecution, and swears to the jury that he will prove Thelma is the murderer, but then picks the worst possible jury for the prosecution and even provokes the jurors. He basically helps Thelma's lawyer establish reasonable doubt. The police does not know that Cleve is the mysterious man, and Pam does not know that the secret lover is Thelma. The jury finds Thelma not guilty. What Cleve does not know is that Thelma's husband Tony is smiling in court, and later meets Thelma at her house, They apparently had a plan for a long time, but now she is reluctant to go along. Cleve shows up, uninvited. Thelma tells him the truth: that she killed her aunt when the old woman found her stealing her jewels. Tony knocks Cleve out. When Cleve wakes up, Thelma and Tony have already departed. But Thelma has reached the breaking point: she causes an accident in which both die. Before dying she has time to confess. Cleve is finished too.

The Great Sinner (1949), his last thriller, is instead a melodrama in which a writer helps the woman he loves against a blackmailer.

Crimson Pirate (1952) is a commercial movie for Burt Lancaster (who plays a Caribbean pirate hunting Spanish galleons), a sophisticated parody of the pirate genre.

Back in West Germany, he made Nacht Wenn Der Tuefel Kam (1957), a faithful reconstruction of the career of a sex maniac who killed 80 women between 1923 and 1943, a fact long hidden by the Nazi regime.

Escape From East Berlin (1962) is a a rather trivial Cold-War thriller that simply reconstructs a real event, engineered to look like an escape from a prison.

Kurt, the chauffeur of an East German officer (and secret lover of his blonde wife), witnesses the death of a friend as he tries to drive a truck through the wall (he is machine-gunned by the guards after his truck exploded). The dead man's sister, Erika, is equally impulsive and, wanting to join her brother (whom she thinks succeeded) almost get killed when she tries to sneak under the barbed wire: Kurt saves her. A neighbor sees Kurt fooling the police and demands that Kurt takes her and her baby to the other side. Kurt's family too would like to escape. Their house is near the wall, so Kurt has the idea to dig a tunnel, a little bit every day. But he tells his family that he will not follow them: his life is in East Germany. A suspicious stranger first tries to rent a room in Kurt's house, then romances his sister and finally confronts Kurt: he knows that they are trying to escape and wants to join them. Kurt tells Erika that her brother died in his attempt. They finally reach the other side. The night that they have decided to flee, Kurt has to work for the officer. Erika's father turns them in, but luckily the officer tells his wife that Kurt is in trouble and she tells Kurt who thus has a chanc to run back home. At home, he finds a crowd: more and more friends have joined in, and now they only have a few seconds to run through the tunnel while the police are breaking into the house. Kurt, wounded, makes the entrance collapse so that the police cannot chase them. Everybody makes it to the other side.

Overall, he was a master of the suspense. He died in 1973 in Switzerland.

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