Saturday, January 27, 2007

CROSSFIRE (RKO 1947) Warner Home Video

Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947) is a disturbing glimpse into the bigoted underbelly of American society. Based on ‘The Brick Foxhole’ the film stars a trio of Roberts; Young, Mitchum and Ryan as three gobs with their livelihood turned upside down. Capt. Findlay (Robert Young) is determined to prosecute someone for the murder of Jewish merchant, Joseph Samuels (Sam Levine, whose character in the novel was homosexual – a complication taboo in films of this vintage).

Findlay’s suspects are army sergeant Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum), brooding hate monger, Montgomery (Robert Ryan) and Cpl. Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper) – so drunk the night it happened he can’t remember a thing. But Findlay has his work cut out for him – especially when the local chanteuse of a seedy nightclub, Ginny Tremaine (Gloria Grahame at her sultry best) surfaces to tell her own side of the story. Violent and unstable, Montgomery seems to fit the bill. Or does he? Maybe Mitchell did it while under the influence.

As a film, Crossfire is a poverty row B-movie but was quickly elevated to ‘A’ list when it received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. And although director Dmytryk gets a lot of mileage out of his tale, there’s really a bit too much heavy-handed ‘bigotry is bad’ talk (like, no kidding) going on. Caught between some generally fine acting, but occasionally terrible script writing, Crossfire emerges as more a footnote to the days of HUAC and the red scare than a quality noir classic.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is – in a word – disappointing. Obviously, the film has not been the benefactor of either proper storage or restoration efforts. It is riddled with heavy grain, dull contrast levels, softly focused blacks and an incredible amount of age related artifacts. At one point, a giant tear flashes across the screen.

The image is also highly unstable, jittering from left to right within frame – most distracting. The audio has obvious hiss and pop throughout. An audio commentary is the only extra feature of merit. Given the ‘importance’ of the film with regards to its breakout and frank subject matter, one wishes more had been done to refresh the print before importing it to DVD.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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