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With: Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, John Ireland, Raymond Burr, Curt Conway, Chili Williams, Regis Toomey, Whit Bissell, Cliff Clark
Written by: John C. Higgins, Leopold Atlas, from a story by Arnold B. Armstrong, Audrey Ashley
Directed by: Anthony Mann
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 79
Date: 05/26/1948

Raw Deal (1948)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Just Desserts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Anthony Mann was tired of making backlot "B" movies and wantedto move up to the big time. So he teamed up with innovative geniuscinematographer John Alton to make these two (as well as several more)film noir nuggets, both starring Dennis O'Keefe.

It's interesting to watch them back-to-back. T-Men is done in a kind of documentary immediacy, with a trumped-voiced narrator piping in to tell us what's going on. O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder play U.S. Treasury agents who go undercover to bust open a counterfeiting ring.

On the flip side, O'Keefe stars in Raw Deal as a con who escapes prison with the help of his salty girlfriend (Claire Trevor) and his naïve caseworker (Marsha Hunt), both of whom fall in love with him. O'Keefe wants to get revenge on the thug who framed him, played by a sinister Raymond Burr (who tosses a flaming dessert on his girlfriend at a party).

While he plays a good guy in one and a bad guy in the other, O'Keefe manages to find the middle ground in both. He gets ominous joy as a hero playing the bad guy in T-Men and manages a few human, humble moments in Raw Deal.

Alton's cinematography is a thing of low-budget joy; using the very darkest blacks and the brightest whites smashed together in the same frame. We get the feeling that he used a single 100-watt bulb to light both films. Mann's skill on both films was so apparent that he was quickly hired to direct a series of Jimmy Stewart Westerns that are still widely celebrated today.

DVD Details: Each disc (VCI Entertainment, $14.99) contains trailers for other film noir classics such as: Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Heat and The Man with the Golden Arm (with rare footage of Otto Preminger and Frank Sinatra on the set).

Note: These two DVDs have gone out of print as of June, 2005. If you can find cheap copies, snap them up.

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