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

The Big Combo

Brown (left) tortures Diamond (right) with a hearing aid

The Big Combo has a big reputation. A regular on the “best film noir” lists, it can’t quite match its rep and is more a solid crime thriller that’s been polished to a stygian gleam by excellent technicians, well chosen actors and some careful snaffles from other sources. The most obvious lift is from 1944’s Laura and its strange plot device of a cop falling in love with the image of a woman rather than the woman herself. That’s also what happens in The Big Combo, when upright and driven Lieutenant Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) becomes infatuated with a mobster’s gal, Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace), even though he’s never met her. Susan is … 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