14 May 2004 | goblinhairedguy
Breathtakingly ostentatious noir
This is one of those extravagantly stylized late-period noirs, one which palpitates with flamboyant cinematic technique. It belongs in the same club as those other exaggerated, self-consciously arty noirs of the late 50s/early 60s, like Touch of Evil, Kiss Me Deadly, Blast of Silence and Sam Fuller's contemporaneous contributions to the genre. Wendkos directs like a recent A+ film school graduate showing off every Hitchcock and Welles trick he's learned -- there are many stunning edits (he is also credited as the film's editor), several strikingly composed shots, and a suitably seedy background (the fact that the crooks' hideout is right next to a railway line full of speeding streamliners is a boon). At the same time, he toes the studio line of narrative clarity and cohesive action scenes enough to make this suitable viewing for the non-buff (one can see why he spent most of his years in television, but at the same time could dazzle with over-the-top effects in The Mephisto Waltz.) Fans of Atlantic City's Steel Pier are in for a treat in the film's climax (which owes a bit too much to The Lady from Shanghai) -- we even get to see the diving horse. But notably, we also see the soggy marshes that border the city and reflect the protagonists' own situational quagmire. It may not have the integrity of the more subtly devastating noirs of the Siodmak 40s, but it has its own postmodern tradition to uphold. It's worth picking this one up even on the third-generation dupes that are now in circulation; a wide-screen dvd restoration is definitely in order.