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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DESPERATE (1947)


This minor film noir from RKO, an early credit for helmer Anthony Mann, gets the job done, but isn’t distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd. That’s also true of the pleasant, but unmemorable leads, Steve Brodie & Audrey Long. Brodie plays a truck driver who’s blindsided into working a heist, and when he tries to stop things by signaling a cop, the hot-headed kid brother of the boss (glowering Raymond Burr) panics and shoots the officer. Brodie runs off with his wife to some MidWest relatives and then turns himself in. But the cops won’t have him! They’d rather use him as bait to catch the whole gang. Mann isn’t quite able to make us swallow all his story curves, but there’s nice pickings along the way. Jason Robards, Sr. has one of his best outings as an eccentric police dick and, for some reason, Mann stuffs a small joke about food in almost every scene. A festive anniversary cake alight with the glow of four enormous plumber candles, Burr slicing fresh turkey breast off the carcass while terrorizing those MidWest relatives, an uneaten hamburger after a rub-out, a lousy last meal for a condemned man. Maybe they should have called this one DESPERATE . . . FOR LUNCH.

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