|This Screening is part of event: DVRfest 2022
Another noir, this time 40s American from heist-master Jules Dassin (who I believe was American but when to France when he was blacklisted?) and a prison drama written by Richard Brooks and starring tough guy Burt Lancaster.
I don't know if this is a real thing or not but it seems to me that there's a clear difference between 40s and 50s noirs. While 40s noirs are still dark and bleak and pessimistic, they also have a kind of reserved etiquette that the 50s movies don't have. So a movie like this, while it's about prison conditions and humanity under oppression and all that, it still has a polite level of decency. Compared to a movie like Riot in Cell Block 11 it feels like a melodrama.
And I'm not saying that's bad. Just a different vibe, less dangerous. But what it lacks in edge it more than makes up for in an almost romantic feeling of civility. Even the fearsome prison guard captain here is played by soft-spoken Hume Cronyn. He does still convey menace but in a classically-trained perfect-grammar sort of way.
I'd say Cronyn is actually the stand-out here. And the ending does deliver, but the various flashbacks showing how each main character came to be in the prison feel pretty flat to me. After Le Doulos, this one doesn't quite stack up. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, just that it was only good not great.
| Prison noir starring Burt Lancaster in his second movie directed by Jules Dassin with a script by Richard Brooks (thanks to producer Mark Hellinger). I particularly enjoyed how the heavy is little ol' Hume Cronyn. I suppose it's a testament to his acting ability that I can believe he intimidates anyone at all, much less big ol' Burt.
There were several aspects of the film that i didn't dig at all: the singing dude, the various flashbacks, and the doctor's long-winded social message speeches. Aside from those though, I liked the rest. I particularly liked how brutal the violence was (for its time) with the killing of the snitch sequence and the climactic break-out attempt. When Burt learns which of his crew was an informer, I thought "wouldn't it be cool if they strung him to the front of that cart and used him as a human sheild?" then just as quickly "nah, it's the 40s. That's like a Mad Max type of thing to do, not Hayes Code 40s" but sure enough they did it and it was awesome!