Combustible Celluloid
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With: Steve Brodie, Audrey Long, Raymond Burr, Douglas Fowley, William Challee, Jason Robards Sr., Freddie Steele, Lee Frederick, Paul E. Burns, Ilka Gruning
Written by: Harry Essex, Martin Rackin, based on a story by Dorothy Atlas, Anthony Mann
Directed by: Anthony Mann
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 73
Date: 05/09/1947

Desperate (1947)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Woe Truck

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Anthony Mann's Desperate (1947) was the first of three "B" noirs Mann released over the course of one year. Next up was Railroaded! and then his groundbreaking T-Men, upon which he collaborated with cinematographer John Alton and reached new heights in the use of darkness and shadow. Desperate isn't quite that good, but it does have Mann's sense of coiled violence, just waiting to unload.

Steve Brodie stars as Steve, a happy truck driver newly married to the pretty Anne (Audrey Long); he still brings her flowers when he arrives home from work. One night, he gets a call; he can make a quick $50 for a night's work. Unfortunately, the job turns out to be getaway car for a robbery. Steve tries to refuse, but winds up at the wrong end of a gun. A cop is killed, and one of the thugs is caught and sent to prison. Regrettably, that thug is the beloved kid brother of gangster Walt Radak (Raymond Burr), and Walt wants Steve to pay for it. So Steve grabs his new bride and hits the road, trying his best to hide out. During this time, he's forced to steal cars and perform other shady activities in which he would otherwise have no interest.

The action is spread out over several months -- the length of the trial and the execution, and -- this has the effect of dampening some of the suspense; the story is a bit too broad for its compact, 73-minute frame. Likewise, Brodie never captures the mixture of torment and violence and anguish that his character should be feeling. He seems like an all-around, righteous, good-natured guy. Burr on the other hand, is quite good; he's intimidating and angry, and like all good villains, he comes from a real place of pain and anger.

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