Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Noir Watch - Force of Evil

Before Force of Evil, I'd not had the pleasure of seeing John Garfield in a movie before. Garfield passed back around 1952, and didn't join the field of actors for whom a premature passing ends up placing them in a romantic pantheon of stars who were taken too soon (Bogart, Monroe, etc...).  I have to say, I thought Garfield was very good.  One wonders what else he might have done.

This is my first viewing, but Force of Evil is an interesting movie in several respects, in that its a very well shot movie, using (I believe) New York as a backdrop, and a mix of sets and on-location shots in the streets.  The plot is a bit complicated, relying on what I assume was semi-common knowledge regarding numbers rackets back in the day, gangsters seeking semi-legitimacy through "combinations", and a refusal to let any particular character appear as the white knight of the film. 

When they do my biopic, I hope the actor playing me gets portrayed as a disembodied head staring out from the poster
Its rare you see a movie from this era in which everyone involved is playing fast and loose with law and order, even the attractive young love interest of our male lead (the lovely Beatrice Pearson, who only made a very few films before returning to the stage). 

The movie contains a few scenes that were frankly a bit revelatory, including a scene in a diner which just worked liked gangbusters (including the score).  While the characters motivations don't all exactly click, and it seems the script could have been tightened a bit, I have to give credit to George Barnes, the movie's cinematographer and David Raksin, who scored the film.

Aside from John Garfield, the cast seemed like they were actually quite good, but I also think that this film must have been well above a "B Picture" in budget.  The aforementioned Ms. Pearson turns in a good job, but several actors in smaller roles took their parts to heart, especially Thomas Gomez as Leo Morse. 

And, even Jamie looked up from her computer and exclaimed "Oh, man!  What isn't she in?" when Marie Windsor vamped her way onto the screen.*

The movie is black and white, but Windsor spells trouble in any color scheme
Likely your mileage will vary on this one, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  While it took me a bit to get how the numbers rackets worked in the movie (actually very important to the plot), I did catch on, and I liked how all of the characters became slowly and almost unwittingly embroiled in deeper plots than anything they'd set out to do.  Very clever stuff.

*I actually had no idea Windsor was in this one until the credits rolled at the opening

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