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Author Topic: Desperate (1947)  (Read 2761 times)
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« on: January 05, 2012, 05:43:18 AM »

Desperate (1947) - 8/10
Dir. Anthony Mann. An honest truck driver Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) is tricked into a heist by gangsters. When he finds out about the scam, he alarms the police, which leads to the arrest and subsequent death penalty of the brother of the gang's boss. The boss tries to pressure Steve into taking all the blame by threatening to hurt his wife. Steve gets out of the gangsters' hands and takes his wife across the country. The gangsters are chasing them (and the police is too), trying to get him before the convicted gangster is executed.

I was surprised when I found out that this has only an average rating of 6.9/10 on IMDb. It has some implausibilities, sure (why he can't go to the police right away is a bit murky, for example) but it is directed with such style and confidence that you kinda just don't care about such details (which are covered any way later on). Every scene is well crafted, a small story in it self. The script has some great noir lines, but even run-of-the-mill scenes are interesting to watch because of the way they are balanced, blocked and shot.   

And there's a very possible OUATITW connection here: There's a swinging a light which causes the shadow of a hat to cover and and expose the eyes of a gangster.

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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 09:33:44 PM »

Quote
And there's a very possible OUATITW connection here: There's a swinging a light which causes the shadow of a hat to cover and and expose the eyes of a gangster.

Also there is a final denouement involving three men a clock and ever increasing closeups, a connection to GBU possibly also. I'll review it soon, a great Noir 9/10.

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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2012, 05:31:28 PM »

Director: Anthony Mann with Stars: Steve Brodie, Audrey Long Jason Robards Sr., Raymond Burr and William Challee.



Wow! Blown away by another exceptionally stylish Noir, Mann is at top form right out of the starting gate, some great cinematography sequences here that definitely look as if they influenced Leone. There is a back room beating of Steve Brodie that is reminiscent of the introduction to Harmonica at the trading post in OUTITW, and a countdown to an execution that will recall the three way shootout at the end on GBU, involving a clock, and ever increasing closeups of Brodie, Burr, and Challee.

The swinging light fight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krNLQw8sI34

Storyline is Chicago independent trucker and newlywed Steve Randall (Brodie) is contacted over the phone, to do a night job to fill in for the "regular driver." The caller unbeknownst to Steve is Reynolds (Challee) a henchman of mobster Walt Radak (Burr), they are doing a fur warehouse heist and need Steve's truck to haul the loot. When Steve discovers what they are up to he balks, and is forced at gun point to continue with the plan. He spots a patrolman on his beat and flashes his headlights to alert him. The patrolman approaches the truck and exchanges gunshots with Al Radak, Walt's younger brother. Steve during the commotion takes the opportunity to get the upper hand in the cab of the truck and guns it toppling Al Radak to the ground where he is captured by the police.

Al Radak shooting it out with police:



Al is held for a cop-killing, and Radak tries to extort Steve's help in clearing Al by threatening Steve's pregnant wife Anne (Audrey Long).  Steve and Anne flee for their lives, only to find that the police are also after them. They head for Minnesota to Anne's relative's farm but an address on an envelope gives them away, Steve and Anne must repeatedly abandon their temporary refuges as they head West.

Noir staicase:



An excellent Noir all the way hitting on all cylinders. Burr and Challee shine as the goons after Steve, Challee reminds me of noir staple Jack Lambert, he could almost play his brother. Upon a second watch I'm upping this to a 10/10 an must see.

From IMDb:

Brodie vs. Burr in Anthony Mann's brusque, bare-bones noir, 30 October 2002

Author: bmacv from Western New York
Hot on the heels of RKO's beeping radio tower astride the globe, `Desperate' flashes on the screen, ragged letters smeared along a rising diagonal. In 1947, that was all audiences needed to alert them that one of the short, swift and stylish products of a new division of the film industry (not yet termed film noir) was about to unspool.

Teamster Steve Brodie takes a call to do a night hauling job; since it's his four-month anniversary, he demurs at first, but the pay is too good to pass up. He should have, for the indispensably creepy Raymond Burr and his gang are using him and his truck in a warehouse heist. When Brodie catches on, his attempts to thwart the burglary result in the capture of Burr's kid brother, who has just shot a policeman. Roughed up by Burr, Brodie must convince the police that he's the killer – or his bride (Audrey Long) will suffer Burr's wrath; Burr brandishes a jagged bottle to cinch the threat. But Brodie makes a break for it.

What follows is a protracted cat-and-mouse game played out from Chicago to Minnesota farm country, with Burr in pursuit of the newlyweds. It's the classic story of just plain folks caught up in a sinister web of circumstances, and its director is Anthony Mann, working up to his legendary collaboration with John Alton (his able cinematographer here is George Diskant).

In the basement where Burr works Brodie over, a wildly swinging ceiling lamp floods the action with a harsh glare then plunges it into darkness, adding immeasurably to the dread. Near the end, when Burr plans to kill Brodie at the stroke of midnight – the precise moment when his own brother will die in the electric chair – a montage of faces and eyes ratchets up the tension as the seconds tick by. Mann shows his native talent for the film medium in every frame, and he's abetted by Brodie, Burr and that old pro Jason Robards (Sr.) as a police detective. There are flashier and more resonant films in the noir cycle, but for rough, bare-bones entertainment, Desperate is hard to beat.

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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 08:57:02 AM »

this gets no more than a 6/10

firstly, Steve Brodie is just an average nobody as an actor. decent in his many supporting roles, but as the lead? no way. Raymond Burr is the only cast member that really adds anything to the movie, that is above average. (I also liked the sleazy private dick, who had a real small role)

Yes, I greatly enjoyed the moment with the swinging light. Not all that much else.

Many noirs involve a good guy who gets into trouble for reasons that aren't his fault, and should have gone to the police earlier but didn't. In this instance, the fact that he doesn't makes absolutely ZERO sense. He wants to get his wife away safely BEFORE he goes to the cops? As if a regular nobody can run away across the country and protect his wife better than the cops would?  Roll Eyes

of course, when he does go to a cop, the cop turns out to be the most annoying piece of garbage who basically becomes Brodie's enemy, cuz, well, it makes the movie work better that  everyone is out to get him  Roll Eyes


at the end: the bad guys, holding Brodie, about to kill him, a neighbor knocks on the door looking for his wife, and the bad guys  - instead of instructing him to say, "my wife is sleeping, come back tomorrow," instruct him to LET HER IN??? and only afterward do they say, "hey, wait a minute; she's seen us."

then finally, the cops show up, but Brodie - a regular nobody who probably never fired a gun in his life - runs up after the bad guys; yes, this young husband/father risks his life to run after the bad guys when the cops are right there  Roll Eyes

and to make it even more perfect, the cops don't even go up after the bad guys! they leave Brodie to go up alone (while the one cop there, instead of going up, stays outside to make sure his lieutenant didn't sustain too bad a headache), and of course, they finally come up just as soon as Brodie has killed the bad guys

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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 09:04:26 AM »

this gets no more than a 6/10

firstly, Steve Brodie is just an average nobody as an actor. decent in his many supporting roles, but as the lead? no way. Raymond Burr is the only cast member that really adds anything to the movie, that is above average. (I also liked the sleazy private dick, who had a real small role)

Yes, I greatly enjoyed the moment with the swinging light. Not all that much else.

Many noirs involve a good guy who gets into trouble for reasons that aren't his fault, and should have gone to the police earlier but didn't. In this instance, the fact that he doesn't makes absolutely ZERO sense. He wants to get his wife away safely BEFORE he goes to the cops? As if a regular nobody can run away across the country and protect his wife better than the cops would?  Roll Eyes

of course, when he does go to a cop, the cop turns out to be the most annoying piece of garbage who basically becomes Brodie's enemy, cuz, well, it makes the movie work better that  everyone is out to get him  Roll Eyes


at the end: the bad guys, holding Brodie, about to kill him, a neighbor knocks on the door looking for his wife, and the bad guys  - instead of instructing him to say, "my wife is sleeping, come back tomorrow," instruct him to LET HER IN??? and only afterward do they say, "hey, wait a minute; she's seen us."

then finally, the cops show up, but Brodie - a regular nobody who probably never fired a gun in his life - runs up after the bad guys; yes, this young husband/father risks his life to run after the bad guys when the cops are right there  Roll Eyes

and to make it even more perfect, the cops don't even go up after the bad guys! they leave Brodie to go up alone (while the one cop there, instead of going up, stays outside to make sure his lieutenant didn't sustain too bad a headache), and of course, they finally come up just as soon as Brodie has killed the bad guys
You have outlined very well all of the failings of the plot.Afro The only place I disagree with you is on the score. With so many stupidities in the story I can't go higher than a 4.

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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2014, 03:52:47 AM »

It's Noirsville, hell all the implausibilities are a trope of Noir, if you go by your stringent criteria of reality Detour would would never hold up. A part of Noir is its fever dream/nightmare quality. Its still a visual treat, it would hang among the masterpieces in a Noir museum, 10/10  Wink Wink Wink Afro Afro Afro

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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2014, 01:23:34 PM »

But the whole point of Detour is that the telling of the story, which is done from the protagonist's point of view, reveals that the narrator is unreliable. The inconsistencies communicate the true story, which one reads "between the lines." It's a great trick, but it's not one that can be repeated endlessly. We don't need all other noirs to amount to the same thing. And where in Desperate do you get the notion that Steve Brodie is narrating events, and narrating them unreliably? Sorry, no sale.

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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2014, 03:54:36 PM »

And where in Desperate do you get the notion that Steve Brodie is narrating events, and narrating them unreliably? Sorry, no sale.

And where in my post do you get the idea that I said Steve Brodie is narrating anything? I first thought of Detour, as just an example of people doing stupid things in situations where common sense would dictate otherwise. 99% of Westerns are myth and not reality, I enjoy the spectacle.

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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2014, 04:27:34 PM »

And where in my post do you get the idea that I said Steve Brodie is narrating anything? 99% of Westerns are myth and not reality, I enjoy the spectacle.
I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. Without that approach your argument comes down to "Because noir/westerns are myth and not reality, plot logic is unimportant." Therefore, all genre stories are equally valid, and one cannot be preferred to another. Yet we all have preferences. I can't really believe that you rank films solely on the basis of which deliver better spectacles.

But maybe you do. If so, you are unlike most film watchers of my acquaintance. Story matters to most, and the difference between a good story and a not-so-good one tends to be related to how much real life gets smuggled into a genre exercise. Did the characters sounds like real people? Did they do what real people would do in a similar situation? Was the situation itself plausible? Were the "laws" of physics, chemistry, and/or human biology observed? A "no" to any one of these questions is, in my book, fatal. If there isn't at least some connection to real life, a story won't hold my interest.

A Western is perhaps more mythic than a noir, so my standards may slide as I move from genre to genre. If a Western gunslinger never runs out of bullets in a battle I tend to shrug and move on. But I get really annoyed if characters in a noir can fire forever without having to reload. Spectacle is necessary for a successful genre picture, but it is never sufficient.

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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2014, 05:21:20 PM »

I have a siding scale for spectacles.

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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2014, 07:54:42 PM »

I really envy you, CJ. And for the same reason, I envy your wife: it doesn't take much to please you :p




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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2014, 08:20:44 PM »

Adam Lounsbery  Back Alley Forms

Desperate (1947)

Anthony Mann's Desperate stars Steve Brodie (not to be confused with the other Steve Brodie) and Audrey Long (the future Mrs. Leslie Charteris) as a young married couple on the run from sinister thugs led by the glowering Raymond Burr.

Steve Randall (Brodie), the owner and sole operator of Stephen Randall Trucking, is such a sweetie that he buys flowers for his wife Anne (Long) on their four-month anniversary. (When I watched this movie with my wife, she turned to me and said, "You didn't get me anything for our four-month anniversary." Thanks for making the rest of us look bad, Steve.) But the happy couple's celebration has to be postponed when Steve gets an offer he can't refuse ... $50 for just one night's work.

When an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The crew of mugs loading merchandise from a warehouse into Steve's truck are clearly up to no good. When one of them flashes a rod, Steve balks, so they shove him back in the truck and keep the gun on him. They need a clean "face" for the cops.

When a police officer shows up to investigate, Steve signals him with his lights, which leads to a shootout between the cops and the thieves. Steve drives away. Al Radak (Larry Nunn), who has one foot on Steve's back bumper and the other on the loading dock, falls and is captured by the police. His older brother, Walt Radak (Raymond Burr), the leader of the crew, gets away with his henchman, Reynolds (William Challee).

Walt's crazy about his kid brother, and Al will face the death penalty for the cop who was killed during the warehouse heist. So Walt demands that Steve turn himself in to the cops and claim he was responsible. To convince him, Walt calls in Steve's license plate number and then has his boys work him over in a dark room with a single swinging overhead light. It's a stunning sequence, and quintessentially noir.

When Steve doesn't give in, Walt tries a new tactic. "Say, I'll bet that new bride of yours is pretty," he says while holding a broken bottle. "How 'bout it Steve?"

Walt has found Steve's Achilles' heel, and he agrees to Walt's plan. Walt says, "I don't care what you tell them, but if Al doesn't walk out of that police station by midnight, your wife ain't gonna be so good to look at."

But Steve manages to slip away from Reynolds and call Anne from a pay phone. He tells her to meet him at the train station. They'll go on the lam together, so Anne will be out of Walt's reach.

Most of the rest of the film is an extended cross-country chase, as Steve and Anne move from place to place, establish new identities for themselves, and pick up work where Steve can find it. They're pursued not only by Walt and Reynolds, but by the authorities, since Steve is still a person of interest in the murder of the police officer at the warehouse.

Along the way they have the obligatory conversation about how he can't turn himself in to the police because they won't believe him. They have a second wedding on the Minnesota farm owned by Uncle Jan and Aunt Klara (Paul E. Burns and Ilka Grüning) because their first marriage was just a courthouse deal and they deserve a big gathering with a real priest. Anne finds out she's pregnant. They are crossed up by a sleazy private investigator named Pete Lavitch (Douglas Fowley) and they are assisted by a sympathetic police detective, Lt. Louie Ferrari (Jason Robards), who's not above using Steve as bait to catch Walt.

Desperate is not a long film (it's less than an hour and 15 minutes), but it drags a little during its middle act, which sometimes feels repetitive. It redeems itself completely in its final act, however, which is as dark and as tense as any film noir fan could ask for. Steve insures himself for $5,000 and heads for Walt dead-on, like a man playing chicken with an oncoming freight train. Six months have passed since Al was arrested, and he's set to be executed. Walt gave up a long time ago on the idea that his brother could be freed, and all he wants now is the satisfaction of killing Steve at the exact moment that Al dies. A life for a life.

Walt and Reynolds take Steve to an apartment. Walt places a clock on the table between them in the kitchen. It's a quarter to midnight. He gives Steve a last meal — sandwiches and milk — and a cigarette, and promises to shoot him at the stroke of midnight. There are increasingly tight close-ups of their three sweaty faces. "Now who was it said time flies?" Walt asks sardonically.

Desperate is the first really good noir from Anthony Mann, a director whose name is now inextricable from the term "film noir," but who started out in Hollywood making mostly musicals and comedies. Desperate is not as interesting as T-Men (1947) or as powerful as Raw Deal (1948), but it's a well-made, well-acted, exciting thriller. Audrey Long (recently seen as Claire Trevor's little sister in Robert Wise's Born to Kill) is probably the weakest actor in the film, but she's called on to do the least. Steve Brodie is an appealing protagonist. He has a pleasant face and a regular-guy demeanor, and he's believable as a man who's pushed too far.

The real treat in Desperate is Raymond Burr as the vicious Walt Radak. This was only Burr's third credited appearance on film, and while I enjoyed his role as the villain in William Berke's Code of the West (1947), Desperate plays much better to his strengths as an actor. Burr was a remarkable heavy (no offense intended, big guy), and I never stopped to consider how ludicrous Walt's plans were while I was watching this film. Burr sells every one of his hard-boiled lines with ruthless efficiency.

Mann's cinematographer on Desperate, George E. Diskant, deserves mention, too. While he's perhaps not as famous as Mann's frequent collaborator John Alton, Diskant's photography in Desperate is beautiful — full of darkness, hard angles, and vertigo-inducing chiaroscuro constructions.

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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2014, 08:25:26 PM »

I really envy you, CJ. And for the same reason, I envy your wife: it doesn't take much to please you :p

Well, that is not very flattering towards his wife, is it?  Roll Eyes

 

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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2014, 01:44:18 PM »

I'm with the consensus that the second act is horrible - well, most of the movie outside of the heist scene (logic issues and all), the swinging light sequence and the climax (from a directing/cinematography standpoint). I'll give this a very generous but undeserving 7/10 because those sequences were so well done and ahead of their time.

The script has so many flaws, many of which were already mentioned. I don't mind when characters make bad decisions - ie Mitchum in Where Danger Lives - but when the decisions are fueled by lazy writing and don't better the film/make things more exciting, I check out. Even though Desperate is something like 73 mins long, it feels like two hours.

With that said, I'll take a bad film with some brilliant scenes over something by the numbers and bland.

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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2014, 03:07:21 PM »

The script has so many flaws, many of which were already mentioned. I don't mind when characters make bad decisions - ie Mitchum in Where Danger Lives - but when the decisions are fueled by lazy writing and don't better the film/make things more exciting, I check out. Even though Desperate is something like 73 mins long, it feels like two hours.
I'm giving you the Ebert Award for the month of June. Afro

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