John Payne (Miracle on 34th Street and Kansas City Confidential) plays Eddie Rice, a World War II veteran who suffers from amnesia. He doesn’t remember anything prior to his military service. A doctor recommends Rice to go back to his hometown to see if a familiar setting will trigger any recollections.
As soon as Rice steps out of the train he is picked up by the police. He then learns that his real name is Eddie Riccardi, and that he used to make a living as a gangster. Rice also discovers that his old cronies want him dead. Rice tries to learn more about himself while evading the local mob.
Reaction & Thoughts:
The Crooked Way, written by written by Richard H. Landau, directed by Robert Florey (Tarzan and the Mermaids and The Beast with Five Fingers), is a rather sad tale of war hero who can’t escape his violent and cruel past. It’s a B-movie submerged in post-war anxieties. The film does a good job of capturing the malaise of the late ’40s. It also deals with a number of issues that are still relevant today, specifically the problems many veterans face as they try to readjust to civilian life.
I don’t want to take anything away from Payne — he’s great in a difficult role — but the real star of the film is cameraman John Alton (The Big Combo and T-Men). It’s one of the most striking-looking noirs I’ve ever seen. The use of shadows & lights is superb. It’s like watching a collage of Rembrandt’s paintings.
Alton is not working on a blank canvas, though. Payne’s anti-hero is interesting because he has no choice but “learn-as-he-goes” since it is impossible for him to rely on knowledge and experience to avoid trouble.
Ellen Drew (The Man from Colorado) is pitch-perfect as Payne’s cynical ex-wife (she doesn’t believe that he is a changed man). Great character actor Percy Helton shines as a cowardly crook. With Rhys Williams (The Spiral Staircase), John Doucette (True Grit), and Sonny Tufts (The Seven Year Itch).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
I really enjoy the film. It’s a rock-solid thriller. The happy ending seems forced, but it doesn’t hurt the film too much. Anyhow, The Crooked Way is a keeper. B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.