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Friday, February 23, 2018

THE THREAT (1949)

Cast & crew are third-string players, but everyone’s at the top of their game in this lean, mean prison breakout suspenser. Nominal lead Michael O’Shea plays Good Guy Cop, convalescing at home when he hears that vicious psychopath ‘Red’ Kluger (raspy-voiced Charles McGraw stealing the pic*) has escaped prison, vowing revenge against him and the D.A. who sent him to Folsom. And he proves good as his word, helped by reluctant moll Virginia Grey & a gang of thugs hoping to collect stolen loot before flying off from a secluded rural landing strip. Structurally daring, the film largely dispenses with a first or second act (well, all but the second act climax), going hellbent for leather right from the start with mostly action sequences till they hit the cabin and have to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for the partner and his late arriving plane. This last sequence, by far the longest in the pic, is very proto-Quentin Tarantino, though not so over-extended. How could it be with the no-frills/B-pic budget and a bare 66" running time. One or two convenient story beats ae used to get us there, but they hardly matter as the violence still has a nasty kick to it, rare for the period. This one’s just dandy.

DOUBLE-BILL: *For more McGraw, Richard Fleischer’s THE NARROW MARGIN/’52 is top choice.

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