"I'm easy to do business with. You talk, you live."
Dave | Tennessee United States | 01/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eddie Rice (John Payne) is a WWII veteran that's just been released out of the hospital. Because of a combat injury, he has complete amnesia. The only thing he knows is that he came from Los Angeles, so he goes to the city looking for someone, anyone, who might recognize him and help him unravel his past. Unfortunately, the first ones to recognize him are cops, who know him by another name, Eddie Riccardi, cold-blooded gangster. But they don't know that he's totally forgotten his notorious past. After being released by the cops, Eddie runs into his ex-wife, Nina (Ellen Drew) who's not too pleased to see him. The Eddie she knew was cruel and heartless, and of course she's very reluctant to believe his amnesia story. The next one to find out that "Eddie's back in town" is Eddie's former mob boss, Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts). Vince is also upset that Eddie has returned, because Eddie had double-crossed him years ago and Vince has been waiting to get revenge ever since.
Because of the watchful eyes of the local cops and detectives, Vince sees that killing Eddie and getting away with it is impossible. So, he does the next best thing. He frames Eddie for the murder of a respected police officer, and before long Eddie (with plenty of angry cops looking for him) is wishing he'd just stayed at the hospital and left his past as a blank space. He finally convinces his ex-wife that his amnesia is genuine, and she finally decides to help him escape from the police as well as try to clear himself before his rediscovered life is brought to a tragic end. And while he's at it, Eddie sparks up a new romance with his ex-wife, who's very pleased with the "new" Eddie that`s kind and loving. With the cops closing in fast on Eddie, he bravely decides to take on Vince and his gang alone in a deserted building. Will the cops arrive in time to save Eddie, or will they find nothing but corpses filled with lead? Watch and find out!
1949's "The Crooked Way" is an obscure but highly enjoyable film noir, with some of the most stylish noir photography and lighting I've ever seen. This is because the cinematography was handled by the legendary John Alton, the most recognized and respected name in film noir cinematography. To be honest, I've never thought of John Payne as a great actor. However, with his gloomy, cynical personality and his frequent frowning, he was perfect for film noir, and appeared in several classics besides this one ("Kansas City Confidential", "Slightly Scarlet", "99 River Street", "Hell's Island"). With sharp dialogue, a well-crafted and fast-paced plot, and amazing cinematography, "The Crooked Way" is a great film noir that deserves a better reputation. Recently released on DVD by Geneon Entertainment, the picture quality is wonderful. The sound quality was only average, but considering the very low price of the DVD I have no complaints. If you enjoy classic noir films, then add this gem to your collection!"
Promising noir that sadly doesn't live up to its potential.
Dymon Enlow | 04/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes you need more than an intriguing premise - a guy with amnesia learns he's a gangster with a lot of enemies - and excellent cinematography by John Alton (T-MEN, HE WALKED BY NIGHT) to make an entertaining movie. Based on the positive reviews I've read I had high hopes for this film, but it ended up the one middle-of-the-road review I saw (in "The Film Noir Bible") was the most accurate. This film has the makings of a minor noir classic, but it doesn't happen.
I didn't care for the main character; I felt no sympathy for him because he kept putting himself in harm's way. The female lead had no screen presence and the bad guy wasn't intimidating. I did enjoy the 40's street scenes. Any noir fan should at least watch it once, but I don't think the average film fan will care for it. Nice picture on the DVD though.
Also look for a brief appearance by the often uncredited Jack Overman (T-MEN, BRUTE FORCE, THE LONG NIGHT) as a hood in the scene where Eddie goes to the Golden Horn club.
A rare film noir...
Steve-O | Milford, CT USA | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"finally available. The transfer is excellent (there are some cropping issues and it appears to be converted from PAL) especially for under 10 bucks! Every noir fan will love this one..."
A Unique Character Arc
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 03/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In movie story parlance a character arc is a significant development that dramatically changes the life pattern that individual is pursuing.
In the case of the 1949 film noir vehicle "The Crooked Way" John Payne, a former musical star at Twentieth-Century Fox opposite their popular blondes Alice Faye and Betty Grable, plays a returning veteran from World War Two. This was a familiar story element used in many late forties films, but this film involves a unique twist.
In Payne's case he suffers from amnesia and returns to Los Angeles to find out who he really is. The character arc involves the fact that, the more the viewer learns, the easier it becomes to realize that Payne was not one of the community's solid citizens. He was, in fact, one of the city's most prominent hoodlums.
The character arc involves the fact that the post-traumatic shock Payne is a thoroughly different man. His efforts are accordingly twofold, 1) to establish that he is now a decent man, and 2) to learn about those dark secrets of his past life and seek to rectify them while building on his new post-war existence.
Ellen Drew sustains a profound shock when she learns that Payne is truly a changed man. She was his former wife who soured on him and became involved with his rival a take-no-prisoners mobster played by Sonny Tufts. Tufts bears a physical resemblance to David Brian, who played gangland bosses in many films of the forties and fifties.
Whereas Drew changes her opinion of Payne when she sees that he is a different person than the selfish, plotting mobster she earlier knew, Tufts has a one-track mind throughout. A ruthless sociopath, for Tufts all roads lead to one objective - the elimination of Payne.
While this is not one of the more imaginative film noir efforts of the period from the standpoint of story, there are some pluses in this film. The three leads of Payne, Drew and Tufts dominate and interact superbly, generating dramatic sparks. Another plus is the excellent, brooding black and white photography of John Alton, one of the leading cinematographers of the post-war noir period, who weaves a fascinating tapestry of the Los Angeles of that period."
Simplistic, but Exhibits Iconic Noir Themes and Cinematograp
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 06/08/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Crooked Way" is a minor film noir from 1949 with a familiar premise. Eddie Rice (John Payne) is a World War II veteran who has been in a rehabilitation hospital in San Francisco due to amnesia. A piece of shrapnel imbedded in his brain has caused him to loose all memory of his life and identity. Army records say only that he is Eddie Rice from Los Angeles. So he goes to Los Angeles in hopes that someone will recognize him, and someone does. Two police officers stop him at the train station and take him in for questioning. They say he is Eddie Ricardi, a gangster who ratted out his colleague Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts) to save himself before skipping town 5 years ago. His ex-wife Nina Martin (Ellen Drew) also recognizes Eddie and rings Vince to say he's back in town.
"The Crooked Way" was based on a radio play called "No Blade Too Sharp" and directed by Robert Florey. The cinematographer is John Alton. The print I watched is very high contrast, to the point that shadows are often completely black. I don't know if the contrast on that print or transfer might be too high, but, as Alton is famous for not caring about detail in shadows, I'm inclined to think this is just a very high contrast film, like the great T-Men. In any case, this is a classic scenario of a man with no memory trying to discover himself, only to discover that he was not a good guy. He cannot recapture his memory or escape his past. It's reminiscent of the 1946 film noir Somewhere in the Night, a more iconic film that takes itself less seriously.
John Payne is tall, handsome, and tough as Eddie Rice, but he isn't given a lot to do. Eddie is a simpler character than "Somewhere in the Night"'s George Taylor. He seems oddly unfazed to learn that he was a sadistic thug in a previous life. Police Lieutenant Williams (Rhys Williams) has a quality unlike any policeman I've seen on film: a disarming combination of affability and nerve. Nothing scares him, and he is equally at ease with cops and gangsters. His manner is non-threatening; his pursuit of justice in not. "The Crooked Way" is not complex. It's dialogue is not especially sharp. But it is an entertaining film characteristic of the noir style.
The DVD (Geneon 2005): This is a grainy print, but there are only a few scratches or visible flaws apart from the grain, so it's not bad. Sound is ok. It isn't distracting, but it's not quite clean either. As I mentioned, the film is unusually high contrast, even for 1940s crime film, but I chalk that up to Alton. There are no subtitles, bonus features, or scene menu."