Anthony Mann was a poverty-row director with ambition when he transformed this story of undercover Treasury agents (based on a collection of true cases) into a moody, alienated drama about two lawmen living a shadowed life... more » in the underworld where a blown cover means death. Square-jawed Dennis O'Keefe, a former leading man turned beefy B movie tough guy, and Alfred Ryder star as the titular T-men who take over a counterfeiting investigation when their predecessor is killed, posing as street thugs to infiltrate their way into the gang and living the dangerous life of the gangster to the hilt. The documentary-style realism, with its authoritative narrator, location shooting, and stock-shot interludes of shuffling papers and laboratory testing, is given a nightmarish dimension with stark sets lit in claustrophobic shadows, creating an abstract, eerie emptiness. Penned by John C. Higgins (who wrote Mann's previous film, Railroaded!), and shot by the brilliant cinematographer John Alton, T-Men is raw in comparison to the smoother, more handsome studio noirs such as The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past. Saddled with often awkward dialogue and hackneyed narration, this low-budget gem derives its power from the brutal violence (often offscreen but no less unsettling for it) and spare style, and the desperation in the hard faces of the unglamorous actors. Mann, Alton, Higgins, and star O'Keefe reteamed for the moody Raw Deal the next year. --Sean Axmaker« less
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 05/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"VCI Entertainment, a small video company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is releasing DVDs of "RAW DEAL" and "T MEN," two forgotten noir B movie classics directed by Anthony Mann. Allegedly taken from a closed Treasury Department file (the "Shanghia Paper" case), "T Men" (1947) is a clever crime drama that's shot in a documentary style for added realsim. The meticulously detailed set-up is kind of slow going, but the payoff is gangbusters (literally). Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder are Treasury agents who go undercover, disguised as mobsters, to infiltrate a ring of Detroit based liquor cutters known to be using bogus revenue stamps. The gang's savage leader has already killed a fellow T Man. For the agents, there is almost a perverse emphasis on how they must shut down all normal human feelings to successfully accomplish their missions -- even to the point of standing by while a fellow agent is executed in cold blood. There's no question about the dark noir terrain in this terrific little thriller that is all the more effective thanks to John Alton's brilliant, precise, geometrically composed cinematography. A surprisingly gripping film with a stunning climax. Definitely worth considering if you're looking for those forgotten noir gems."
Mann/Alton team exceed themselves in this noir gem
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Starting with what must have been a standard postwar script praising the feds (this time, the treasury department), the team of director Anthony Mann and director of photography John Alton turned this into one of the most memorable and seminal films of the noir cycle. The budget was shoestring but their love for their craft must have been extraordinary, because shot after shot triumphs as a little cinematographic wonder -- an object lesson in how to let pictures talk. As T-Men Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder plunge deeper into the counterfeiters' world, the action becomes increasingly edgy and violent, belying the syrupy patriotic music that puts us to sleep every time we flash back to Washington, D.C. As good as Mann's (and Alton's) other films can be, T-Men shows off their talents to exhilarating advantage. This is a must-see -- even a must-buy -- for anybody interested in this unparalleled and unforgettable decade of film history."
Excellent film, OK transfer of an excellent film...
Dennis Hendrix | Atlanta GA | 07/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is not meant to be a review of this film, it's a classic film noir, we all know that. What I am concerned with is the transfer quality, which is rather so-so.
The picture is a little shifty, slightly jumpy. It doesn't seem to be the entire picture that moves at times, or at least it manages to shift slightly in different directions; up, down, left, right. In short, imagine watching a movie projected into a waterbed, thats the best comparison I can think of.
For anyone who loves film noir, you want you're darkest shadows completely black; there are times, mostly toward the beginning of the film when the darkest areas of the screen here are more dark grey. There's an unmoving grey tint over the black, its a little like looking at something black with a grey mesh like a screen door between you and it.
The audio is generally good, some buzzing in a few areas.
I am not one who typically worries about the best quality, which is part of the reason I am struggling to explain the shortcomings of this transfer with examples that hopefully people can relate to. But, in short, for such a great film I guess I expected a little better transfer."
An overlooked B-movie crime thriller
bruce horner | 10/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If and when you see this film, ignore the tiresome, moronic narration at the beginning and end that was obviously tacked on by the studio, and enjoy the middle 96% of this tough, well-made, B-movie classic. Before he found fame as a director of westerns, Anthony Mann directed shoestring-budget B-crime thrillers, of which T-Men is the best (better than Raw Deal, much better than Railroaded.) The pseudo-documentary approach combines with John Alton's brilliant underlit noirish cinematography to create a potent brew; engaging, almost mesmerizing. You hate to see the story come to an end. A B-movie masterpiece, one of the great ones of the forties."
An Unknown Gem!
Doug Roberts | Toronto, Canada | 11/24/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What starts out as another Hollywood movie promoting the FBI and other government law enforcement agencies quickly becomes a hard-hitting film noir that exposes the underbelly of an undercover government agent. Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder must become as bad as the villians they are after in order to infiltrate a ruthless gang of counterfeiters. Watch for Charles McGraw in one of his most sadistic roles as Moxey - the thug who loves to inflict pain. A little known classic by Anthony Mann (who directed all of those great 1950's Jimmy Stewart westerns)."