Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.
Also, get a load of that opening scene—a midnight diner, shadowy figures, an empty street. Noir seldom comes any purer. All that's missing is a lonely train whistle. In fact, I'll take that extended scene as the movie's best. McGraw and Conrad drop enough tough talk on the poor counterman to drown the average fall guy. It's from that tense 15-minutes that the movie gets what grit it has. The story's remainder is more like a metaphysical puzzle, as Reardon tries to piece together a solution to Swede's mysterious death. Trouble is he's got to rely on second-hand sources since Swede's in no condition to talk. Plus the sources from his past are disconnected in the telling, so it's like trying to figure out a jigsaw. Then too, will the pieces all fit since somebody could be lying—maybe the squinty Dumb-Dumb or the cringing Charleston, or even the curiously laid-back Colfax (Dekker).
This is a narrative you have to think about once it's over. Because, like a highway under construction, there're a lot of twists and turns. Curiously, the main part is largely devoid of action or even much violence. Instead, the writers and director Siodmak settle for atmospheric exposition, and I'm not sure if that helps or hinders. But either way, the unraveling is compelling. Then too, that final scene on the staircase is oddly reminiscent— in this case, Mary Astor's elevator going down at the end of The Maltese Falcon (1941) despite her emotional pleas.
Anyway, 40's noir hardly comes any purer, from spider woman to fall guy to $50 lighting bill. So if you don't mind a complex plot-line, this is one to catch.
- Jul 13, 2014