Wednesday, November 12, 2008


“Once you do a stretch, you're never clean again! You're never free! They've always got a string on you, and they tug, tug, tug! Before you know it, you're back in again!”


Boy Majestyk, Detective Ripper, the jailbird honor code, the Hubba Bubba cowboy guy, the mean streets of downtown Glendale, the greatest one-eyed director of all time, and a sloshed vetera-*hic*-vitera-*hic*- uh dog doctor.

More details here.


Three men, including a young Charles Bronson, stick-up a gas station in downtown L.A., knock out the attendant and empty the cash register until a nosy cop shows up. The cop shoots the driver in the gut and the bleeding man then takes off, leaving his compatriots to shoot the cop to death before disappearing into the darkness. Police Lt. Sims (Sterling Hayden) is assigned to the case to track down the killers, who turn out to be escaped fugitives. Sims is strictly a no-nonsense, tough as nails detective who has to juggle catching the criminals and trying to quit smoking. Meanwhile, the injured driver shows up at the door of Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson), a reformed criminal and former cellblock mate of the escapees. He begs for help, but Steve’s got a beautiful wife (Phyllis Kirk) and a new honest life and career to protect. But the code of the jailbird cannot be evaded, and Steve knows what next in store, none of it good. The bleeding guy dies in his living room and Steve calls his parole officer for help, but Sims doesn’t buy his story. The hunt for the other two steps up, and when it seems that the coast is clear for the Laceys, Bronson and the other guy show up at their door and force him into a scheme to hold-up the Glendale Bank of America. Steve is an accomplished driver and airplane pilot and the crooks plan on flying to Mexico after the robbery. They team-up with two other dumb mugs (including the maniacal Timothy Carey) who keep Mrs. Lacey as ransom in exchange for Steve’s cooperation. But Sims is hot on their trail, ready to put the big kibosh on their criminal shenanigans even if it takes a dose of hot lead and a bundle of jailbird stiffs.


Director Andre De Toth is one of the great unsung filmmakers of the classic Hollywood era who made above average B-movie westerns and crime stories. (And he banged Veronica Lake!). I know him best from his exceptional Vincent Price horror film House of Wax (1953), and in Crime Wave, he presents a tight little thriller with all the signature notes and visuals of film noir with a little extra. The documentary style and use of natural sound and lighting brings the viewer deep inside the dark world of swarthy desperate fugitives, unglamorous ruined women, and reformed criminals trying to make good. Particularly intriguing were the scenes shot on location in the Los Angeles Police Department and downtown Glendale which document an era long past. Hayden is mesmerizing as the hard-hitting Sims and he masterfully commands each of his scenes with his trademark tough guy voice and imposing physical presence. He’s an actor who should be up there with the greats of his time and be as iconic as Bogart, and even though he’s been in some of the best movies in the history of film, I’m afraid his greatness will be forgotten. Nevertheless, the film showcases his talents remarkably and with its gritty realism, energetic pace, and combustible atmosphere, Crime Wave is definitely a strong entry in the world of noir.

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