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Author Topic: Act Of Violence (1948)  (Read 4981 times)
cigar joe
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« on: September 20, 2011, 09:42:32 PM »

Act Of Violence (1948) director: Fred Zinnemann, with Van Heflin, Robert Ryan and Janet Leigh.  



This has got everything I love in a Noir insofar as visuals. What a great opening sequence of the seedy deserted backstreets of New York City with a backdrop of bishop crook lamp posts smokestacks and skyscrapers (probably a set, but its striking).

A limping figure determinedly tracking through  this wasteland he is Joe Parkson (Ryan), a disabled vet who's commanding officer during the war was Frank Enley (Heflin). Enley betrayed his men by ratting to the CO of the Nazi POW camp that they were digging a tunnel and were planning a breakout. Enley believed he was trying to save lives.  All escapees except Parkson were executed. Parkson, who knew the truth of what Enley had done is now tracking him down to kill him.




Meanwhile Enley has since the war become a exemplar pillar of the community in a suburb of LA . The action switches coasts as Parkson gets a line on Enley's whereabouts. You can hear Parkson dragging his bum leg and you know he's coming before you see him giving a creepy effect during the unfolding events.

This has a great denouement in the railyards at night with shrieking locomotive whistles that's not to be missed.

Filming Locations for those interested: Angel's Flight Railway, Bunker Hill, Downtown, Los Angeles, Angelina Street, Clay Street, Downtown, Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Valley, San Bernardino National Forest, California, Glendale Amtrak Station Glendale, California

Part of Warner Brothers Classic Film Noir Collections released with "Mystery Street",  DVD Release Date: July 31, 2007

Another 10/10

« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 05:37:20 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2011, 05:57:55 AM »

Good write-up, Joe.  Afro I like the film too.

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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2011, 07:13:33 AM »

A pretty awesome flick. I reviewed it as part of my Robert Ryan extravaganza last summer. Afro


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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2011, 08:47:57 AM »

A pretty awesome flick. I reviewed it as part of my Robert Ryan extravaganza last summer. Afro



You should probably re-post it here for those interested.

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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2011, 05:46:15 PM »

Quote
A noir by the great Fred Zinnemann (A Man for All Seasons), Act of Violence also makes use of post-WWII America as a setting, with tormented, guilt-ridden GIs as protagonists. A bit uneven in its plotting, its central story is superb, and fine direction and acting make it a must-see.

Frank Enley (Van Heflin) lives a seemingly-idyllic life as a building contractor in Middle America, with a beautiful wife (Janet Leigh) and child. Into the picture limps Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a crippled WWII vet who knows service buddy Frank's secret: as a POW, Enley betrayed an escape attempt which led to a massacre. Frank flees to Los Angeles to escape the vengeful Joe, getting mixed up with a woman of doubtful virtue (Mary Astor) and a gangster (Berry Kroeger) who determines to bump off Joe. Joe's girl (Phyllis Thaxter) tries to convince her beau to call off the hit, while Frank wrestles with his own conscience.

Act of Violence is a wonderfully ambivalent movie. It seems like an odd cross between The Best Years of Our Lives (veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life) and A History of Violence (idyllic family man whose past comes back to haunt him), but has a darker tinge than both. The film refuses to make its morality easily codified: Frank provides a noble "excuse" for his wartime treachery, but it seems just as likely that cowardice motivated him. Joe comes off as a psycho at first, but he has a justification for his actions, and the film provides a loyal and loveable girlfriend as a foil. Frank, eager to forget the war, easily rejoined society while Joe remained a neurotic outsider obsessed with the past; when the two strands cross, it's hopelessly messy. Do we cheer for the past traitor and present model citizen, or the war hero-turned-psycho?

Zinnemann's direction is fine, with appropriately-moody photography by Robert Surtees heightening the tension. The story takes an odd sidetrack when Frank gets mixed up in with criminals; it seems as if Zinnemann and writers Robert L. Richards and Collier Young feared the main plot was too thin. Still, this development sets the stage for the wonderfully surprising finale, which really spins the film's moral compass out of whack.

Van Heflin (Shane) gives one of his best performances; Frank is never less than likeable but Heflin makes him convincingly complex and guilt-ridden. Ryan is equally good: he's dependably creepy early on, but Zinnemann makes him gradually more sympathetic as the film develops. A remarkably unglamorous Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon) and Berry Kroeger (Gun Crazy) ably represent the seamy underbelly of post-war America. Janet Leigh (The Naked Spur) and Phyllis Thaxter (Jim Thorpe - All American) sweeten the deal as likeable "nice girls."

8/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2010/08/robert-ryan-noir-extravaganza.html

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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2012, 11:25:50 AM »

I did not find this story all that interesting, and didn't like the movie much.
I think of this movie as a classic example of a movie that you will like if, and only if, you are a hardcore Noir fan who enjoys a movie simply because it does the noir aspects (lighting, sets, characters) well.

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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2012, 12:29:00 PM »

But I'm not that interested in noirs and I like it also. One of Zinnemann's best films, much better than his Oscar films. 8/10

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« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2012, 01:42:41 PM »

Heflin and Ryan are an unbeatable combination.

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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2012, 02:18:13 PM »

Heflin and Ryan are an unbeatable combination.

I consider both of them solid actors, but not among the all-time greats

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« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2012, 02:51:00 PM »

Ryan was great in a lot of films, Heflin is ok.

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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2012, 08:03:36 AM »

Ryan was great in a lot of films, Heflin is ok.

Nailed it. Afro

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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 09:53:14 AM »

But irrelevant. The point of comparison is not between Heflin and Ryan, it's between Heflin-and-Ryan AND some other team. There may be a stronger team from the period, but no one has introduced them into evidence.

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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2012, 11:59:40 AM »

But irrelevant. The point of comparison is not between Heflin and Ryan, it's between Heflin-and-Ryan AND some other team. There may be a stronger team from the period, but no one has introduced them into evidence.
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What is the era limited to? Are we discussing only noirs or film of that period in general? Vague Jenkinsian pronouncements aren't very helpful.

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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2012, 08:26:50 PM »

Heflin is way under-appreciated and Ryan is an undisputed God of screen actors.

This movie kicks ass.

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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2012, 09:22:47 PM »

Heflin is way under-appreciated and Ryan is an undisputed God of screen actors.

This movie kicks ass.

Under-appreciated perhaps. Undisputed? That's flat-out wrong.

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