Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1947. Hal Wallis Productions. Screenplay by Charles Schnee, adaptation by Robert Smith, John Bright, based on the play by Theodore Reeves. Cinematography by Leo Tover. Produced by Hal B. Wallis. Music by Victor Young. Production Design by Franz Bachelin, Hans Dreier. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Arthur P. Schmidt.
Burt Lancaster gets out of jail after fourteen years and searches out successful club owner Kirk Douglas, his old buddy from their days as scrappy thugs. Before Lancaster’s arrest, they were pulling off a rum-running job when they made a promise that if one of them got nabbed, the other one would keep business going until he got out and split the profits in half. Now Lancaster is back on the street and wants his share, but when he finds his old pal he discovers that Douglas has big dreams that he doesn’t plan to split with anybody, running a nightclub that he is about to expand. Lizabeth Scott plays the sultry chanteuse in Douglas’s club who gets between these two, trying to soothe their friction but making it worse as it becomes clear that Lancaster won’t back down and Douglas won’t stop at anything to get what he wants (perfect casting for these two, here in the first bloom of their career, as they became respected but highly competitive colleagues for the rest of their lives). Gorgeous, shadowy cinematography and a real sense of danger in the air makes for an electric, noir-ish drama about greed and sex; it’s adapted from a play by Theodore Reeves and I imagine the original was more concerned with investigation the dangerous side effect of America’s post-war boom, the dialogue in the centre of the film about the club’s corporate layers reeks of anti-establishment criticism, but the movie fully allows for masculine aggression to take over as its main concern by the last third and, thanks to having these potent lugs in the leads, it does so to the audience’s great satisfaction.