Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1953. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Story by Dwight Taylor, Screenplay by Samuel Fuller. Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Produced by Jules Schermer. Music by Leigh Harline. Production Design by George Pattrick, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Travilla. Film Editing by Nick DeMaggio.
Stunning film noir by Samuel Fuller that features terrific writing, photography and outstanding performances. Richard Widmark plays a pickpocket fresh out of the slammer who lifts what he thinks is money from Jean Peters‘ purse on the New York City subway. The item he takes is actually top-secret microfilms of government documents that she was delivering to communist enemies for her boyfriend, and when the feds get wind of Widmark’s score they zero in on him to give it back to the good guys. Widmark, aware that he is sitting on a potentially lucrative situation, decides to hold out for the biggest cash prize no matter who is offering it, so he strings the police along while also enjoying some sexy manipulation with Peters. Thelma Ritter steals the show as an informer for hire whom the police regularly lean on to provide data on the low lives she lives among, while Peters and Widmark have terrific chemistry between them, perfectly exemplifying the angry sexuality amid protagonists that is a hallmark of the genre. At a zippy 80 minutes it manages to pack in a full story with marvelous character details and plot twists, then ends with a gloriously violent ending that pushes the energy to the maximum before finally letting go. A true classic.
The Criterion Collection: #224
Academy Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Thelma Ritter)