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Robert Siodmak si trasferi' in Germania ds bambino e vi rimase sino all'avvento del
Nazismo. Ebbe tempo di fare esperienza nel teatro espressionista e di collaborare al documentario
"Menschen am Suntag" (Ulmer, 29). In Francia traspose alcuni drammi teatrali. Nel 41 sfuggi' di nuovo
al nazismo ed emigro' in America, dove trovo' subito lavoro, specializzandosi nel film criminali d'azione.,
che si distinguono per l'atmosfera mordida da film noir e per l'impeccabile messa in scena.
Son of Dracula (1943) horror;
Cobra Woman (1944) favola poetica: due principesse orientali gemelle, una
buona e una cattiva, una semplice e affezionata, l'altra perfida tiranna di un'isola stregata;
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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.
In una cittadina di provincia due hitmen irrompono in un ristorante e
aspettano che la loro vittima si presenti come al solito per
cena. Tengono sotto tiro il barista, un avventore e il cuoco.
Il cliente non si presenta e i gangster vanno a cercarlo a casa.
L'avventore, che e` suo amico, corre ad avvertire l'uomo (Burt Lancaster),
ma questi, sdraiato nel proprio lettino, risponde laconicamente di sapere
cosa sta per succedergli, di aver commesso uno "sbaglio" tempo addietro, e
rifiuta di fuggire.
Gli hitmen salgono le scale, aprono la porta del suo appartamento, e lo
Dopo l'omicidio, l'agente dell'assicurazione indaga sulla vita della vittima,
un onesto e riservato "gas station attendant" che negli ultimi giorni era
rimasto a casa per un malessere. L'amico racconta (primo flashback) che
il "malessere" di
Lancaster ebbe inizio quando alla sua stazione di benzina si presento`
uno straniero. Da quel momento Lancaster aveva perso il suo smalto.
L'assicuratore comunica la morte di Lancaster all'unica erede, la quale quasi
non lo ricorda neppure. Poi ne riconosce la fotografia e ricorda (secondo
flashback) come lo conobbe: furibondo e disperato, stava per buttarsi dalla
finestra dopo aver "perso" qualcosa.
(Il racconto prosegue come un collage di flashback).
L'assicuratore risale al detective che lo arresto` anni
addietro, e che fu anche suo amico d'infanzia. Lancaster era un pugile
promettente ma perse un incontro senza praticamente difendersi. La donna
che e` adesso la moglie del detective era a quei tempi innamorata di
Lancaster e racconta della sera in cui capi` che stava frequentando criminali
e in cui Lancaster si invaghi` della donna del boss.
Tocco` proprio al detective arrestare l'amico, che nel frattempo aveva
L'assicuratore va al funerale con il detective e fa
cosi` la conoscenza dell'ex galeotto che condivise la cella con Lancaster.
di prigione, torno` nell'orbita del boss, sempre segretamente invaghito
della sua donna.
L'assicuratore risale alla rapina clamorosa che la banda
compi`: il bottino non venne mai ritrovato.
Un gangster in punto di morte
racconta all'assicuratore che, la notte prima della rapina, Lancaster e il boss
ebbero un alterco a causa della donna. Fatta la rapina, Lancaster
sospetto` che gli altri volessero estrometterlo dalla spartizione e fuggi`
con il bottino.
L'assicuratore tende un tranello a uno dei membri della
banda, "Dum Dum", ma questi riesce a fuggire.
L'assicuratore sospetta che la ragazza,
Kitty, sia l'unica a sapere dove si trova il bottino, ma non ha modo di
rintracciarla. Risale invece al capo, ma neppure lui sa dov'e` Kitty.
Il detective lo accompagna nelle indagini e finalmente trovano Kitty:
fu lei ad avvertire Lancaster che gli altri avevano deciso di truffarlo
Gli stessi killer che hanno ucciso Lancaster tentano di uccidere l'assicuratore,
mentre Kitty si dilegua.
Corrono a casa del boss, appena in tempo: "Dum Dum" gli ha sparato e sta
rantolando. Confessa quanto l'assicuratore aveva gia` intuito: che lui e Kitty
sono sposati e che avevano insieme macchinato per truffare prima i membri
della banda e poi Lancaster. Dovevano uccidere Lancaster prima che gli altri
lo trovassero e scoprissero la verita`.
Il film, lungo e complesso, e` una serie di flashback che mettono insieme le parti del puzzle.
Lo scopo del thriller non e` scoprire "chi" ha ucciso Lancaster, ma "perche'"
e` stato ucciso. Non e` una caccia all'assassino, ma una caccia al movente.
E in tal modo diventa una caccia all'identita` della vittima, una caccia
allo "sbaglio" che gli e` costato la vita.
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'
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
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.
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.
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.
Il fatalismo e il dettaglio minuto dell'ambientazione, tipici di questi gialli
documentari, toccano qui l'apice.
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
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.
Great Simmer (1949), l'ultimo giallo, e' invece un melodramma in cui
uno scrittore aiuta la donna di cui si e' innamorato a liberarsi da un ricattatore.
Crimson Pirate (1952).
LAncaster e' un pirata dei Caraibi, atletico e
goliardico, a caccia di galeoni spagnoli; parodia del film sui pirati; film d'azione sofisticato, tipico di
Lancaster (attore da lui scopert) produttore.
Tornato in Germania vi diresse Nacht Wenn Der Tuefel Kam (1957),
fedele inchiesta su un maniaco sessuale omicida di 80 donne fra il 23 e il 43, all'epoca tenuto nascosto dai
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.
Maestro della suspense.