Little-known Fred Zinnemann suspense movie about an American POW (Van Heflin) who betrays his fellow prisoners to the Germans and is then pursued in peacetime by a vengeful ex-comrade (Robert Ryan). A taut, well-observed, skillfully directed thriller of the kind rarely made these days. Mary Astor appears as an aging small-town floozie. —R.A.E.P.
Vienna-born Fred Zinnemann had childhood dreams of becoming a musician, and later planned on a law career, before his viewing of the movies of Erich Von Stroheim drew him into the movie business, initially as a cameraman. He came to the United States in 1929, and later found work as an editor, and subsequently as an assistant to documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, and then as an assistant to choreographer Busby Berkeley. He joined MGM in the late ‘30s as a director of comedy shorts, and won an Academy award for his 1938 short subject That Mothers Might Live. Zinnemann moved up to full-length features in 1941, but found little opportunity to work on anything but B-pictures until 1948, with The Search, a drama set in post-World War II Europe. He didn’t really become a major recognized box-office name as a director, however, until 1952 when his Western drama High Noon, starring Gary Cooper, which had been perceived by most observers as headed for commercial disaster, became a monster… read more
At times the story falters, IMO, and there are certain things that make me scratch my head. For instance, I understand Enley’s need to get away when Joe suddenly appears, but just running off by and leaving his wife to fend for herself seemed flat-out bizarre. Even so, the opening sequence and the well-paced finale are two very bright spots here. Definitely an essential noir, even if I like less than others do.
What an incredible noir... The hero turns out to be the anti hero, the villain turns out to be an avenger. And all of a sudden we embark in a journey for redemption... and all of this with fate getting the kicks out of manipulating the characters like puppets. What a movie!
An appreciation of the great American actor Robert Ryan on the occasion of a New York retrospective.