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Author Topic: The Crooked Way (1949) The Most Graphic Noir  (Read 1496 times)
cigar joe
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« on: February 06, 2012, 11:18:54 PM »

(SLWB originally February 06, 2012 republished 9/19/2017)



John Alton's chiaroscuro cinematography imparts upon The Crooked Way what could arguably be the most Graphic Novel look to a Classic Film Noir.

Director Robert Florey (The Vicious Years (1950), Johnny One-Eye (1950), segued into TV early did some Alfred Hitchcock Presents,  Twilight Zones and Outer Limits), Director of Photography was Master Cinematographer John Alton (about fourteen Classic Noir to his scorecard). Music was by Louis Forbes.

The film stars John Payne (Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Larceny (1948), Kansas City Confidential (1952), 99 River Street (1953), Slightly Scarlet (1956), Hidden Fear (1957)), Sonny Tufts (No Escape (1953), Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955)), Ellen Drew (Johnny O'Clock (1947)), Rhys Williams (Nightmare (1956)), Percy Helton (nine Classic Noir), and John Doucette (eight Classic Film Noir), Ester Howard (Murder, My Sweet (1944), Detour (1945), Born to Kill (1947), No Man of Her Own (1950), Caged (1950)), Frank Cady, Charles Evans, who also had some Noir on their curriculum vitae. Cady I just watched the other day in The Asphalt Jungle.


That piece of shrapnel is causing organic amnesia






Eddie Rice (Payne)

Eddie Rice (Payne), wakes up in a San Francisco Veterans Hospital after WWII with a Silver Star but no memory. The Doc tells him his amnesia is "organic" and that the piece of shrapnel in his head has permanently erased his past. The Doc suggests that he attempt to piece his life together by returning to familiar surroundings. His enlistment hometown was L.A., maybe if he goes home he will run into someone who knew him.


Southbound

Eddie buys it. We buy it. Yes, a chance. A once upon a time like big dream, about how, just out of plain crazy ass dumb luck, he'll walk around in The City of Angels and will run into somebody he knows. Then, maybe that person will lead him to another, and then that person to yet another and he'll happily put together his story piece by piece. He figures it's gonna be hard, it's gonna take time. He diligently studies a pamphlet about Los Angeles riding the train on the way down.


Union Station


L.A.






Surprise Eddie!

Yo. The friggin minute he steps out of Union Station he's pinched by the cops. They are there looking for somebody else, and look who drops into their laps.  He's picked up and hauled down to the police station. They know who you are, Eddie.



At the station Eddie Rice finds out he's Eddie Riccardi. Foregedboudit, Eddie's gotta be really scrambled in the head. He can't even remember that he was Italian.

From the cops file he reads that he worked with a sort of Southern California hillbilly hood/mob boss Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts), whom he framed before he joined the Army and disappeared into WWII.

He also finds out he was married to B-Girl (Nina) Ellen Drew, who also has mob connections. She is working in an illegal gambling parlor, she oversees the girls, always on the lookout for those with new "talents." Thanks to the MPPC we can allow our wildest imagination figure out what that meant, lol.

Caught between the cops and the mob, Payne eventually wakes up in a car with a gun in his hand, a dead cop in the seat next to him, and a siren in the distance is getting louder. Just before the tipped off police arrive, Eddie scrambles out into the night.

Payne tracking his past life through L.A.






Nina Martin (Ellen Drew)

Continued below comments...

« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 06:57:29 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2012, 11:51:08 PM »

The plot sounds a lot like the one in Somewhere In The Night.

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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2012, 04:24:03 AM »

Its a lot like "Somewhere in the Night" except darker with a bit more shooting and bodies piling up and Sonny Tufts is much scarier than Conte.  Wink the DVD is cheap enough on Amazon.

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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2015, 08:25:17 AM »

Coming to blu: http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=17004

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« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2015, 10:53:21 AM »

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film5/blu-ray_reviews_70/the_crooked_way_blu-ray.htm

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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2015, 03:08:00 PM »

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOc3uuppEHE

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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2015, 09:07:52 AM »

Just checked out the blu: better contrast and resolution than the screen caps posted here. Some print damage. The story isn't much, but Alton's photography is fine. Best to have the best image possible, so the blu is essential.

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« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2015, 01:25:02 PM »

thanks for the info.

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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2017, 05:47:43 AM »

Continued......

This Film is a gem. Alton's cinematography is extremely dark and claustrophobic and fits the subject matter well, a feast for Noir eyes with a nice juxtaposition of studio set & seedy location shots that make a fine example of the noir aesthetic. The large and varied cast actually enhances the amnesia angle to the story since minor character actors flicker for a few moments of screen time out of the shadows and then are gone, and just like Eddie, you don't  know whether they are a part of Eddie's past life or not.

Noirsville Alton's stylistic cinematography


















Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts)




Petey (Percy Helton)




Hotel owner (Esther Howard)




Petey and his cat










A Western Swing Bar








Like a lit stick of dynamite mad dog (Sonny Tufts)

Payne plays a convincing amnesia victim, Drew is good as his ex wife, but Sonny Tufts as the mob boss is excellent, he is very convincing as an unhinged, wild eyed, mad dog, barely in control when angered, hood. He should have been in more Film Noir, his performance here is both impressive and very memorable. He spits, snarls, and I wouldn't be surprised if he bit, actually after checking his bio, he does bite. "In 1949 he had been found drunk on a Hollywood sidewalk. In 1950 he was sued by two women for allegedly biting each of them in the thigh." (IMDb mini bio)

This film may also have the distinction of being one of the only Film Noir to feature some Western Swing its diegetic soundtrack.

The screencaps are from the Geneon DVD, it's cheap, adequate but featureless, still a personal 9/10 for me.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 09:05:41 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 08:53:43 AM »

Thanks  for that. I have an old taped copy of it which is pretty crappy. I found the movie to be so so, but I guess I just need to see a restored version.

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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 09:11:28 AM »

Thanks  for that. I have an old taped copy of it which is pretty crappy. I found the movie to be so so, but I guess I just need to see a restored version.

Well, I give an extra point for the visuals, so keep that in mind, also Ellen Drew is not as effective as the majority of the film noir actresses we know, she's sort of on par with Joan Dixon adequate but not a strong presence.

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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2017, 02:09:33 PM »

Quote
also Ellen Drew is not as effective as the majority of the film noir actresses we know, she's sort of on par with Joan Dixon adequate but not a strong presence.

I agree about Ellen Drew. But I thought Joan Dixon was memorable in Roadblock.

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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2017, 04:37:17 PM »

I agree about Ellen Drew. But I thought Joan Dixon was memorable in Roadblock.

That is her best Noir for sure.

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« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2017, 11:49:44 AM »

Organic Shrapnel In The Head.

The Crooked Way is directed by Robert Florey and adapted to screenplay by Richard H. Landau from the Radio Play "No Blade Too Sharp" by Robert Monroe. It stars John Payne, Sonny Tufts, Ellen Drew, Rhys Williams, Harry Bronson and Hal Baylor. Music is by Louis Forbes and cinematography by John Alton.

World War II veteran Eddie Rice (Payne) is suffering from permanent amnesia after a piece of shrapnel was lodged in his brain. With no recollection of his past life, he heads off to the only place he has a link with, the army registration office in Los Angeles. No sooner does he arrive there he is picked up by the cops, and soon his past life slowly begins to piece together, and it doesn't make for good news at all…

The amnesia plot device is served up once again for a film noir make-over, with mixed results. As a story it just about registers as interesting, there's not nearly enough made of the premise, with much of Eddie's memory recollections a bit too convenient for comfortable dramatic purpose. The smart hook is that Eddie, now a genuine nice guy, begins to find out he was something of bad man, very much so, and there are plenty of people displeased with him. There's also some considerable violence dotted throughout, aggression is palpable, while lead cast performances are more than adequate for the material to hand.

However, on a visual level The Crooked Way is on a different planet to the screenplay. John Alton brings all his skills as a film noir cinematographer here, photographing the whole film through a noir kaleidoscope. Characters move through shadows and light, or are bathed in various dark reflections, with the interior sequences brilliantly adding an aura of mental fog. With Florey throwing his bit in the mix as well, with canted angles and isolated lighting of the eyes, it's a top draw noir of the film making style. Their work deserves a better story, but regardless, because of the tech quality and the safe nature of the premise, this has to be a comfortable recommendation to anyone interested in film noir. 7/10

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