Criss Cross (1949)

Criss-Cross-poster

Something about Burt Lancaster’s eighth film is memorable in the way many films never were, and still aren’t.

It’s not that all the critics in the business call it a film noir. I’m agnostic on that. I think it might actually be in a class all of its own.

It’s not the nifty armoured car heist plot, with the old drunk master planner Finchley vetting every last detail for whiskey money.

It’s little things.

Like the explicit discussion of grocery prices among armoured car truck drivers. With one of them complaining about the extra cost of telephone shopping his wife does. Nineteen cents for a tin of tomato juice at the market. Forty-odd by phone for two.

Like the dance music played at the Round Up club where the heisters hang out.

Like the heist scene, shrouded in smoke, with gas-masked figures tyruggling in the gray limbo.

Like the perennially underrated Dan Duryea as the convincingly menacing gangster, Slim Dundee.

Like the double twist of betrayal and skuldggery.

I couldn’t ask for better matinée fodder.

Credits

Universal, black and white, 87 minutes.

 

Directed by Robert Siodmak. Produced by Michael Kraike. Written by Daniel Fuchs from the novel by Don Tracy.

 

With Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, Yvonne De Carlo as Anna, Dan Duryea as Slim Dundee, Stephen McNally as Det Lt Pete Ramirez, Esy Morales as Orchestra Leader, Tom Pedi as Vincent, Percy Helton as Frank, Alan Napier as Finchley.

The Killers (1946)

the-killers-poster

Officially titled Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, the film is nevertheless more the invention of its script writers than that of the author, whose original short story, first published in 1927, does no more than suggest a killing, sketching a single scene with a couple of thugs coming to a small-town diner looking for Ole ‘Swede’ Anderson to kill ‘him for a friend. Just to oblige a friend.’

Hemingway was not yet a celebrated Nobel laureate when the film was released, but he was already known for his reportage of the Spanish Civil War and his rumoured exploits during the liberation of France. Invoking his name in the film’s title brought with it a certain cachet.

Hemingway’s story leaves the suggestion of murder hanging, offering no motives or conclusions, and not even confirming whether the killers executed the Swede as intended. He did, however, offer a compelling clue on interpreting his story when one of his thugs tells one of the story’s characters that he ‘ought to go to the movies more. The movies are fine for a bright boy like you.” To see a newsreel, perhaps, or a silver screen gangster story about events just like the one about to take place in the sleepy little town?

Continue reading “The Killers (1946)”