Thursday, January 25, 2007

Railroaded! (1946)

Deliciously blackhearted film noir from Anthony Mann talks tough, walks tough and acts tough. That's probably because it IS tough - it's the kind of film where everyone, even the good guys, are playing an angle and trust is a major issue. ("He doesn't trust anyone." "He trusts me.") It starts with a jewel heist, then it proceeds on to a frameup. Said frameup causes a cascade of crosses and double-crosses, many of them perpetuated by characters (i.e. Rosie) on the side of good. When main villain Duke snarls "Listen, you, I know what I'm doin'," there's no reason to doubt him, but there's also no reason to doubt that his opponents have already anticipated his next moves; he, in turn, has thought out their next moves. The soul of the film belongs to Duke; as he loses the thread and starts to get desperate, the film seems increasingly frantic as well, so that by the end the nervous tension he exudes threatens to split the celluloid in two. It's noir as a chess game, and it's pretty fun to watch, if only to wait for the checkmate moves (i.e. hard-boiled cop Mickey's fakeout drive-away).

Great Moments in Dialogue:

DUKE: "Women should be struck regularly, like gongs. That's from Oscar Wilde."
CLARA: "Give it back to him!"

Grade: B+


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