Women and armored cars are a volatile combination: both are seemingly impenetrable. And so it is in Criss Cross as a heist involving both is in the offing and betrayal seems the more likely reward. “From the beginning, it all went one way. It was in the cards, or it was fate, or a jinx, or whatever you want to call it,” says a resigned Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster), a driver for Horten’s Armored Car Service who has just returned to L.A. after a two-year drift. The reason for his flight is a heart battered by Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), his calculating former wife and now the mate of mobster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), a shrill thug who’s all over her like a bad rash. Director Siodmak places this triangulated story of crosses both purposeful and double in a cramped slice of Los Angeles, a flophouse on Bunker Hill, a sliver of a dim bar, the vertiginous Angel’s Flight funicular. Just as the memory of Anna has permeated Steve’s consciousness, the city’s presence is an inescapable reminder of life’s appalling indifference. Shot from a lofty point of view, the boldly rendered robbery has the crooks wandering through a smoke-filled street like lost inhabitants of limbo. Fatality hangs over Criss Cross like a thickening mist. For love-weary Steve Thompson, it’s the air he breathes. —Steve Seid
Robert Siodmak was a German born American film director. He is best remembered as a thriller specialist and for the series of Hollywood film noirs he made in the 1940s.
Siodmak was born to a Polish Jewish family in Dresden, Germany (the myth of his American birth in Memphis, Tennessee was necessary for him to obtain a visa in Paris). He worked as a stage director and a banker before becoming editor and scenarist for Curtis Bernhardt in 1925. At twenty-six he was hired by his cousin, producer Seymour Nebenzal, to assemble original silent movies from the stock footage of old ones. Siodmak worked at this for two years before he persuaded Nebenzal to finance his first feature, the silent chef d’oeuvre, People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) (1929). The script was written by his younger brother Curt Siodmak, later the screenwriter of The Wolf Man (1941).
With the rise of Nazism he left Germany for Paris and then Hollywood. Siodmak arrived in Hollywood in 1939, where he made… read more
A slow burner that reveals its double crossing characters in crime and love with superb efficiency and as always with Siodmark their simmering dark fatalistic sexuality.The last sequence when the heist explodes in surreal chaos as the darkness and shadows swallow the lovers up as they are gunned down on a sofa with a moonlit sea in the background by creepy dan dureya are some of Siodmak's greatest moments.
I know, I know, the banal fatalism of the payroll heist is old news. Still, this is a rare Dan Duryea role where he doesn't bitch-slap the femme fatale (here played by the future Lily Munster) (though she does have Duryea-inflicted contusions on her back). If I read this flick correctly, lust and jealousy are the two most powerful motivating forces in the world: I won't argue, even despite the pat tragic ending.