Monday, August 3, 2015

The Crooked Way (1949)

(SLWB  February 06, 2012)

Director Robert Florey, Director of Photography John Alton with John Payne, Sonny Tufts, Ellen Drew, Rhys Williams, Percy Helton, and John Doucette and many others.

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, maybe he will run into someone who knew him. He gets discharged and heads to L.A. that is all he knows about himself. At Union Station, two police detectives meet him, calling him Eddie Riccardi. From them he discovers that he worked for mob boss Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts), whom he framed before he joined the Army.

He also finds out he was married to B-Girl (Nina) Ellen Drew, who also has mob connections working in an illegal gambling. Caught between the cops and the mob, Payne wakes up in a car with a gun in his hand and a dead cop in the seat next to him. He awakes just before the tipped off police arrive and scrambles for his life.

Payne tracking his past life through "Noirville" LA

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.

Alton's stylistic cinematography

Mob Boss Sonny Tufts and his men

Payne plays a convincing amnesia victim, Drew is good as his ex wife, but Sonny Tufts as the mob boss is excellent. The Geneon DVD is cheap, adequate but featureless, still a  9/10

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