Greetings again from the darkness. Thanks to The Dallas Film Society and movie critic Chris Vognar, we were lucky enough to watch this on the big screen from a 35mm print! If you enjoy the pulp thrillers from the 1950’s, this is one you must track down. For a little 80 minute B-movie, it packs a wallup for interesting discussion points.
Directed by Samuel Fuller (The Big Red One,1980), we get a real taste of his “man’s man” approach. Not only was Fuller a well-known war correspondent, he also served in WWII, including Omaha Beach on D-Day. This movie provided him with a stellar cast: Richard Widmark as Skip, Jean Peters as Candy, Thelma Ritter as Moe, and Richard Kiley as Joey. It is a story of the times and begins when a small-time pickpocket Skip, works his magic fingers on Candy’s purse while they are facing each other on the subway.
The real fun begins as we watch the police, the feds and the communists all trying to hunt down Skip. The reason? He unknowingly stole top secret US information that was being passed to the commies. This film noir has some really tough elements. Heck, Skip even punches Candy right in the jaw! The lighting, score and fight scenes are all no-nonsense and direct. It’s really fun to watch the eye movements of the key players. It’s obvious none of the characters are comfortable in the situation, no matter how smooth they try to be.
The great Thelma Ritter runs off with each of her scenes. She plays Moe, the local stool pigeon who plays everyone for a buck. Ms. Ritter was nominated for an Oscar for her role (one of four in a row for her), but it was another in her long line of 6 nominations and no wins. This may be her best work. Another of my all time favorite character actors makes a brief appearance as one of the commies: Willis Bouchey. And don’t miss Milburn Stone as a detective. Mr. Stone would go on to star as Doc on “Gunsmoke” for twenty years.
The film features some terrific lines. One of my favorites is “Everybody likes everybody when they’re kissing.” Another is “I would rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor.” Fun stuff. Should also mention that Jean Peters (pictured in a scene from this movie) went on to become the wife of Howard Hughes and her acting days abruptly ended. After their divorce, she made a couple of TV appearances, but was unable to recapture the magic of these early years. Should also note that this film was re-made (weakly) in 1969 as The Cape Town Affair.
*note – I couldn’t find the original trailer or a clip that didn’t give away the ending.