Criss Cross (1949)

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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.

Sahara (1943)

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Forgettable and low-budget war-time propaganda film. My pleasure only for Bogart as a tank commander who outsmarts the dastardly Germans in a battle of wits. An American Beau Geste of sorts at a time in which the American desert experience had been pretty disastrous.

The production featured a genuine M3 Lee battle tank, nicknamed Lulu Belle in the film. maybe some more modern film-makers stole that idea.

Dan Duryea is an added bonus. That tall, melancholy drink of water always infused the films he was in with a certain mood.

J Carrol Naish was apparently nominated for an academy award, as was Rudolph Maté for cinematography, and John Livadary for sound. I’m not sure the panel didn’t have sunglasses on to reach that conclusion.

Credits

Columbia, 97 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Zoltán Korda. Written by John Howard Lawson, James O’Hanlon from a story by Philip MacDonald. Cinematography by Rudolph Maté, Produced by Harry Joe Brown. Music by Miklós Rózsa.

Humphrey Bogart as Sergeant Joe Gunn, Dan Duryea as Jimmy Doyle, Bruce Bennett as ‘Waco’ Hoyt, Richard Nugent as Captain Jason Halliday, Lloyd Bridges as Fred Clarkson, Patrick O’Moore as Osmond ‘Ozzie’ Bates, Guy Kingsford as Peter Stegman, Carl Harbord as Marty Williams. Louis Mercier as Jean ‘Frenchie’ Leroux, Rex Ingram as Sergeant Major Tambul, J Carrol Naish as Giuseppe, Kurt Kreuger as Captain von Schletow, John Wengraf as Major von Falken.