Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crime Wave (1954)

Dir: Andre De Toth
Warner DVD

An excellent noir film that starts with three escaped cons (Ned Young, Ted de Corsia, and a very young Charles Bronson) that are knocking over gas stations and diners, just stealing small bits of money so that they don't call too much attention to themselves. The first robbery we see them on turns out to be the last as a motorcycle cop pulls up while they are emptying the register. One of them shoots and kills him and gets shot in the process. They split up, giving the injured man some money to pay an underworld doctor, and hope to meet up later. The film now weaves in between the story of the escaped cons, an ex-con Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson, who went on to be a prolific TV director) that has been on the straight and narrow for years, and the dogged pursuer Det. Lt. Sims (Sterling Hayden) whose willing to do just about anything to catch these cop killers. The introduction of Sims shows just how intelligent a filmmaker De Toth is. He waits for an appropriate moment in the film to reveal who was the biggest star at the time, and when he is introduced, we see him milling about in the background of the crime scene. He doesn't come bursting onto the scene calling attention to himself, but when it comes down to business he dominates every scene he's in, because he's Sterling Hayden! The desperate men all meet up at the unsuspecting Lacey's home and pull him into a bank robbery where he is supposed to help them escape the country. Cinematography is top notch, the writing is tight with just the right amount of character beats to get a sense of who these people are in an economical running time, and the performances are solid all around.
The disc is part of a double feature with Decoy which was written by the actor Ned Young who played the con who gets shot in this film. There is audio commentary by Eddie Muller and James Ellroy. It's available in the Film Noir Box Set Vol. 4 or sold as a single disc double feature on Amazon.


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