3 standouts in style of 'film noir' Videos: Mann-Alton collaborations among the best from the late '40s.

December 01, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

In the late 1940s, many filmmakers had abandoned the upbeat, glamorous look of pre-World War II movies to delve into the dark and gritty side of life.

Years later, critics would coin the phrase "film noir" to describe this genre.

Some of the better "film noir" efforts came from smaller studios such as the now long defunct Eagle-Lion. In 1948 and 1949, the company teamed director Anthony Mann with cinematographer John Alton, and the results were three movies -- "Raw Deal," "T-Men" and "He Walked by Night" -- that are excellent examples of the "noir" wave. They are now available on video.

Mann went on to become one of the most prolific directors of the 1950s, guiding James Stewart through "Bend of the River," "The Naked Spur," "The Glenn Miller Story" and "Man From Laramie" and Gary Cooper in "Man of the West." He also was responsible for such epics as "El Cid" and "The Fall of the Roman Empire."

Alton also had a busy career, shooting such films as "An American in Paris," "Tea and Sympathy," "Teahouse of the August Moon" and "Elmer Gantry."

Unseen for decades, the three movies finally have been revived by Kino Video. Remastered and recorded at the desirable SP (standard play) speed, the films are just as hard-hitting now as they were nearly 50 years ago. Each film is priced at $29.98.

The collection:

"Raw Deal" (1948) Dennis O'Keefe plays Joe Sullivan, who breaks out of prison with the help of his favorite dame (Claire Tevor) and heads to San Francisco. There Sullivan plans to confront the guy who sent him up, gangster Rick Coyle (played chillingly by Raymond Burr). O'Keefe, often noted for light comedy, is surprisingly effective as the relentless con on the lam.

"T-Men" (1948) This time O'Keefe is on the right side of the law. He plays Dennis O'Brien, who along with fellow Treasury agent Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) goes undercover to infiltrate a ring of murderous counterfeiters. The film, complete with narrator, demonstrates agents' jobs can be both dangerous and boring. A thriller all the way.

"He Walked by Night" (1949) Richard Basehart is terrific as a cold-blooded cop killer who always seems to be one step ahead of the police. It's a sure bet that this film inspired Jack Webb's "Dragnet." Webb appears in the movie as a key member of the LAPD crime lab. The movie also has a narrator, Reed Hadley (who soon was to star in his own TV series, "Racket Squad").

Pub Date: 12/01/96

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