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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THIEVES’ HIGHWAY (1949)


Jules Dassin was coming into his own when he directed this last U.S. pic before being blacklisted. His helming on BRUTE FORCE, THE NAKED CITY & this film show just the sort of noir specialist he was born to be, and he’d top these with two noir masterpieces, NIGHT & THE CITY & RIFIFI, made in Europe. This film, a strong precursor for ON THE WATERFRONT, has the misfortune of falling directly on the fault-line between pure studio aesthetic (see THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, based on the same materials) and Elia Kazin’s brand of poetic realism. The cast (Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J Cobb, rehearsing his WATERFRONT role, and a wonderful turn from comedian Jack Oakie) give standout perfs, but THIEVES inevitably suffers as an early casualty in the post-WWII shift away from dramatic neatness.

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