After the success of T-Men, ambitious poverty-row studio Eagle-Lion reunited director Anthony Mann with cinematographer John Alton and beefy star Dennis O'Keefe for this change of pace, a haunting revenge noir about an esc... more »aped criminal, his loyal girlfriend (Claire Trevor), and a lovely legal aide (Marsha Hunt) he drags along as a hostage... or perhaps something more. Raymond Burr is the sleazy, sadistic gangster who double-crossed O'Keefe; in the film's most memorable scene he lashes out at a clumsy party girl by tossing a tureen of flaming cherries jubilee on the hapless woman (the scene may well have inspired Fritz Lang in The Big Heat). Trevor narrates in a cold, deliberate, yet hauntingly effective tone, which matches the foggy mist that envelopes the characters from the initial escape (a brilliant exercise in minimalism), through the getaway down a wooded coastal highway, to the finale on the San Francisco docks. Mann provides his usual undercurrent of brutal violence (a fight in a taxidermy showroom in which the antlers of a mounted buck become a lethal weapon), but the film is pervaded by a sense of doomed romanticism not seen in Mann's films before or since, and the volatile romantic triangle adds a further edge to the moody tension. Rife with B movie dialogue, the film may come off stilted and campy to some viewers, but taken on its own stylized conventions it's a minor masterpiece of low-budget film noir. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Anthony Mann (originally known as Emil Anton Bundesmann) is probably known by many for his taut, stylistic westerns of the early fifties (Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur), but many also known him from his generally low budget noir thrillers produced in the mid to late 40's for such poverty row studios as Republic and RKO. Of these films, the favorite among fans being T-Men (1947), but I think Raw Deal (1948) holds its' own quite well, and is essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre. The film stars Dennis O'Keefe (who appeared in the earlier Mann film T-Men), Claire Trevor (Born to Kill, Key Largo), Marsha Hunt (Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, Jigsaw), and Raymond `Perry Mason' Burr (The Whip Hand, Bride of the Gorilla). Also appearing is John Ireland (A Walk in the Sun, All the King's Men) and Curt Conway, who had bit parts in films like T-Men and The Naked City.
The film basically begins with Joe (O'Keefe) busting outta the joint (that's slang for escaping from prison, in case anyone was wondering). Joe was sent up for a crime he didn't commit, as he took the rap for his friend Rick (Burr). We learn that Rick aided in Joe's escape indirectly (greasing a few palms, I suspect), but it's not in Rick's best interests to see Joe survive the escape attempt as he owes him a large wad of cash and also he can put the finger on Rick. In a sense, Rick feels he's giving Joe just enough rope to hang himself with, and the police will take care of his dirty business (with escaped convicts, it's always shoot first, and then shoot again, at least in films like this). Anyway, with the help of his girlfriend Pat (Trevor), he does escape, but the police quickly throw up a dragnet, and so Joe and Pat are forced to seek refuge in the apartment of Ann (Hunt), a legal aid that worked on Joe's case. She feels Joe should turn himself in, so they end up taking Ann with them in an effort to keep her from spilling the beans. With Ann in tow, Joe and Pat make their way to San Francisco, hoping to catch a boat to South America, but first Joe must pay a visit to Rick and collect the money he's owed. Little does he know Rick has other plans, ones that involve Joe taking a dirt nap...
It's pretty rare that I give out five stars, but I feel this film is deserving, as this is a case where I feel everything clicked. Mann's direction, along with John Alton's (T-Men, He Walked by Night) cinematography combined beautifully to create a dark, rich story that drew me in so completely. When I think noir films, images of cityscapes, shrouded by shadowy night come to mind, but here, most of the story takes place on the road, and in remote, forested areas. Regardless of this aspect, they still managed to utilize the available elements to create one of the best films in the genre, aided by a tight script, thoughtful characters, and wonderful performances. O'Keefe is a believable mix of criminal and hero, driven by his needs, but tortured his conscious which is drawn out by the good girl character of Ann (who finds herself attracted to the good nature that she believes lies beneath Joe's repellent exterior). On the other side is the slightly worn character of Pat, who, in any other film would have come off as a plain old gun moll, but here she's fully developed in her own right (aided by her monotone narrative throughout the film, taking her character well beyond what I would have expected). She desperately loves Joe, but sees him slipping away as Ann's influences take their toll. And then there's the character of Rick, the seemingly refined, yet highly sleazy, sadistic, strong-armed antagonist with a slight case of pyromania (check out the flaming Cherries Jubilee shower his gives his mistress after she makes the mistake of bumping into him, spilling a drink on his fine duds) who's position of leadership is based not on the respect of those under him (it's rare that he does his own dirty work), but on the fact he's the biggest dog in the yard (especially the way he's filmed, at low angles to make his appearance seem that much more menacing). Finally there's the character of Fantail (Ireland), one of Rick's henchman, who's thinly veiled contempt for his boss comes through often, but apparently lacks the will or desire to wrest control from his boss. Another strength was the film's pacing. The story moved along well, needing only 79 minutes to completion, and not one wasted moment throughout. Perhaps this relatively short run time was more a product of the minimal budget, but it's immaterial as Mann gets the job done, presenting one of the finer films I've seen in awhile. I think my favorite scene was the fistfight between Fantail and Joe in the taxidermy shop. It's very intense, shot beautifully, and had me glued to the screen (if you ever find yourself in the position of brawling in such a place, make sure you mind the antlers). Was there some predictability within the story? Perhaps, but I was so taken in I rarely noticed, nor did I care.
I thought the print on this DVD released by VCI looked very good. There's slight indications of wear, but the contrast appeared sharp and clean, and the audio very decent. One has to remember this wasn't a major studio film, so this may be the best transfer we'll see, unless someone pops for a full-blown restoration. Special features include a 7 minutes piece called Dark Reflections Part 2, narrated by writer Max Allen Collins (an excellent piece, by the way), and three rough looking trailers for Impact (1949), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and Smash Up (1947).
Brilliantly Redefines Noire -- Mann at his best
Mad Dog | Canada | 10/15/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Anthony Mann's films -- whether they are Noire, War Film, Western, or Costume Epic -- are all about one thing: characters doomed to self-destruction. In that light "Raw Deal" is probably his best, because here *everyone* is going down.O'Keefe escapes from prison, bent on collecting his dough from Crime Boss Raymond Burr, and leaving the country. But on the way he becomes trapped between the woman who broke him out, and the beautiful parole officer they kidnapped. Meanwhile the sadistic pyromaniac Burr has sent killer John Ireland to make sure O'Keefe meets a sticky end."Raw Deal" starts as an exercise in classic film-noire style: tough-guy dialogue, gun-play, and simple low-key sets. Forunately (and unlike most directors), Mann is aware that these are just *noire motifs*. So rather than produce a cliche by playing *to* them, Mann (and his collaborators Alton and Sawtell) produces a masterpiece by playing *against* them.What would normally be a conventional revenge flick, becomes a complicated emotional journey, in the guise of an equally meandering -- occaisionally surreal -- road trip across post-war middle-America.John Alton photographs it beautifully (the Greg Toland of B-Movies): a fight in a bait-shop takes place under a grid of black fishing nets; a woman's face reflected in the face of a ships' clock (also under a net... hmmmm); a forest at night; an alleyway choked with fog -- all of it exquisitely illuminated (or NOT illuminated, depending on your lighting philosophy).And instead of the standard -- Dum-Da-Dum-Dum Dragnet score, composer Paul Sawtel (the Bernard Herrman of B-Movies) gives it a quivering, supernatural flavour -- with a Theramin.The cast is perfect, particularly Ireland whose moral ambivalence can't conceal his distain for Burr and respect for O'Keefe. And Whit Bissel does a run throught in one of the films more surreal moments.As i said before, the characters in a Mann film are always trapped by their own weaknesses. This is a standard B-movie/noir device, usually explained to the audience by a cynical Private-I with words like lust, betrayal, murder, etc. etc. What sets "Raw Deal" apart from the ordinary Noire fodder is that we don't just observe, we sympathise. In "Raw Deal" the trap isn't "greed" or "lust" -- it's loyalty, devotion, duty, and self sacrifice. Anthony Mann's characters are doomed by their virtues, not their vices.And they take us with them."
Ever So Raw!!!
Harvey M. Canter | tarzana, ca United States | 05/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am honored to be the first reviewer of this film! This is definitely a "B" noir flick in terms of the look and feel, but the script is taut and the acting is tough as nails.Some of the visuals (shot by John Alton) are as dark and as well-composed as any in Noirville--great low angle shots especially! See a pre-Perry Mason/Ironside Raymond Burr as a power-mad pyromaniac, and John Ireland as his hapless flunkie. And of course Claire Trevor as the co-dependent floozie following her man all the way to the gutter. Her laconic, downbeat voice-overs are superb, and set the emotional tone for the movie throughout. I had never seen the lead actors before--Dennis O'Keefe and Marsha Hunt, but found their portrayals quite compelling. The love story was a bit soapy but tolerable. The quality of the disc by VCI was very good in terms of the picture quality, though sound was a bit muffled. Some fun extras, including trailers from several other unrelated noir films, like Impact, and a really cool behind the scenes interview with Sinatra, Preminger, Kim Novack on the set of Man With the Golden Arm--what these are doing on this disc is beyond me, but it is a nice non sequitor nonetheless. Also, a film critic does a little analysis of Anthony Mann's style, and it is pretty darn interesting. See the companion DVD, T-Men, also an A. Mann film, but Raw Deal is the Real Deal!!"
FORGOTTEN NOIR GEM
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 05/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released in 1948, "Raw Deal" is the story of a bitter, tough gangster (Dennis O'Keefe again) who seeks revenge after being framed and sent to the big house. With the help of an innocent woman he seduces, the ex con carries out his murderous scheme of vengeance, eventually coming face to face with the psychopathic pyromaniacal creep (Raymond Burr) responsible for his jail time. John Ireland, Marsha Hunt, Chili Williams and Claire Trevor co-star -- with Trevor responsible for the terrific, fatalistic voice over narration.
Mann's direction is as tight and stylized as the screenplay. The often low angle black and white photography by John Alton, who also did "T Men," is a perfect match for this tale of dark justice. A very young, surprisingly trim, Raymond Burr is a standout as the bad guy. In the scene that introduces him, he gleefully burns the ear of one of his flunkies with a cigarette lighter. It's a cruel joke and Burr obviously relishes the role of the sadistic heavy. The quality of the full frame print is pretty good. The sound could be a tad cleaner. The extras are limited to some great noir trailers and "video liner notes" by mystery writer Max Collins. Definitely entertaining and better than might be expected."
Great noir... just don't read the back of the DVD box!
Baron Von Cool | 05/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was an enjoyable film noir which gives the standard prison break/revenge angle a twist in that there is a love triangle between Dennis O'Keefe and two dames (one good, one evil), who represent his conscious. They keep distracting poor Dennis from getting his revenge on Raymond Burr, the dirty mug what double-crossed him out of his $50,000. The entire cast is great, but Burr steals the show as the sniveling, double-crossing villain; he tosses flaming cherries jubilee into the face of a broad that's annoying him and says, "she shoulda been more careful." It's hilarious how Burr hides from O'Keefe, sending his goons out instead, setting ambushes... I mean, I've seen bad guys do this before, but nobody does it better than Burr!
Raw Deal's soundtack is unusual in that it utilizes a theremin, which is most commonly associated with spooky 1950s sci-fi films. The print is crisp and clean with only a few minor jumps. Audio is crystal clear.
WARNING: A complete moron wrote the back of the DVD box. This nimrod gives away the ENTIRE STORY (including the ENDING) and does so in a style worthy of a fourth grade book report! That, and he mispells "gang boss" as "gag boss". Don't read the description on the back of the DVD if you want to be surprised when you watch this movie. Honestly, this is the WORST description ever written for any film EVER. Unbelievable!!!"