Men in War

James Edwards and Robert Ryan

A “lost patrol” war movie, 1957’s Men in War shows that director Anthony Mann was as expert in this genre as he had already proved himself to be in film noir (Raw Deal), the western (Winchester ’73) and the epic (Quo Vadis). Made without any buy-in from the US military, it’s a pared-back affair and Mann uses the lack of budget to good effect, relying on key performances from his two leads to deliver the goods. There are two different types of human endeavour on display in Men in War – the social and the individual. Robert Ryan plays the fiercely egalitarian lieutenant in charge of a platoon trying to make its way … Read more

A Dandy in Aspic

Caroline and Eberlin

The film that killed the great director Anthony Mann, A Dandy in Aspic didn’t get killer reviews when it debuted in 1968. “Completely devoid of suspense” and “bland,” said the New York Times. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide declared it “wooden”. Mann died of a heart attack towards the end of shooting and the movie’s star, Laurence Harvey, took over directing, which isn’t the reason the film bombed. Harvey actually takes some pains to ape the claustrophobic, slick style of Mann. There just isn’t a whole lot going on in Derek Marlowe’s original story (which he adapted for the screen). But what looked like a failure back then looks more like a calculation all … Read more


Alfred Ryder and Dennis O'Keefe in character as gang members

The T in the T-Men stands for Treasury. As if to bolt cinema doors to stop people escaping, this 1947 crime drama opens with an urgent voiceover informing us that T-Men are actually really exciting and not boring at all. Think of them more like secret agents, it insists in footage that’s all cloak and dagger and maximum stakes. The voiceover goes on to tell us that the T-Men serve a crucial role in society and are a vital tool of the US government, protecting all citizens from the depradations of mobsters, smugglers, counterfeiters and the like. To reinforce the point, an earnest, to-screen homily follows, spoken by Elmer Lincoln Irey, real-life chief … Read more

Side Street

Joe finds the money

An overwrought civics lesson done as film noir, Side Street sees Farley Granger’s humble postman making one tiny mistake and finding himself in deep trouble. One minute he’s trading small talk with a cop in the bright daylight, the next he’s mixing with murderers, femmes fatales and other unsavoury sorts and has become a creature of the night. In Side Street, when you fall, you fall. No wonder it flopped – it’s overcooked. And it did flop, badly. So much so that its director, Anthony Mann, abandoned film noir for good and headed off into the hills where a career making highly regarded westerns beckoned. But all that was in the future. First … Read more

Raw Deal

Joe with gun, and Ann and Pat on a staircase

Everyone gets a raw deal in Raw Deal, a taut and dark film noir from 1948, directed by Anthony Mann, lit by the great John Alton and so often overlooked when Greatest Noir lists are being compiled. Its characters all come with a tragic flaw which writers John Higgins and Leopold Atlas are eventually going to prise wide open but it’s the additional wallop of sheer bad luck that makes this unusual – that and the voiceover by one of its female characters, Pat Regan, played by Claire Trevor. Pat is in love with Joe (Dennis O’Keefe) but Joe is in prison doing a stretch as the fall guy for bigshot criminal Rick Coyle … Read more

The Tall Target

Adolphe Menjou and Dick Powell (centre of pic)

A director on his way up meets a star on his way down in The Tall Target, a 1951 B movie about a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861, the year the American Civil War broke out. Anthony Mann directs, one year on from his breakthrough into the big time with the western Winchester ’73, and Dick Powell stars as the New York cop who’s uncovered the plot and is finding the world reluctant to hear him out. Bizarrely, the cop is called John Kennedy, and the plot consists of shooting the president from an upstairs window using a rifle with a telescopic sight. Work that into one of the many … Read more