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Desperate
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 1,260 votes
Release: 9 May 1947 (USA) /

Desperate

Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
Director: Anthony Mann,
Stars: , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: When mobster Walt Radak tries to trick independent trucker Steve Randall into transporting stolen furs, Steve alerts the police, and Walt's young brother Al is caught and held for a cop-killing. When ruthless Radak tries to extort Steve's help in clearing Al, Steve and his young wife flee for their lives, only to find that the police are also in pursuit. With every man's hand against them, Steve and Anne must repeatedly abandon their temporary refuges. Finally, one midnight, the showdown... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Critic Reviews


Hot on the heels of RKO's beeping radio tower astride the globe, `Desperate' flashes on the screen, ragged letters smeared along a rising diagonal. In 1947, that was all audiences needed to alert them that one of the short, swift and stylish products of a new division of the film industry (not yet termed film noir) was about to unspool.

Teamster Steve Brodie takes a call to do a night hauling job; since it's his four-month anniversary, he demurs at first, but the pay is too good to pass up. He should have, for the indispensably creepy Raymond Burr and his gang are using him and his truck in a warehouse heist. When Brodie catches on, his attempts to thwart the burglary result in the capture of Burr's kid brother, who has just shot a policeman. Roughed up by Burr, Brodie must convince the police that he's the killer – or his bride (Audrey Long) will suffer Burr's wrath; Burr brandishes a jagged bottle to cinch the threat. But Brodie makes a break for it.

What follows is a protracted cat-and-mouse game played out from Chicago to Minnesota farm country, with Burr in pursuit of the newlyweds. It's the classic story of just plain folks caught up in a sinister web of circumstances, and its director is Anthony Mann, working up to his legendary collaboration with John Alton (his able cinematographer here is George Diskant).

In the basement where Burr works Brodie over, a wildly swinging ceiling lamp floods the action with a harsh glare then plunges it into darkness, adding immeasurably to the dread. Near the end, when Burr plans to kill Brodie at the stroke of midnight – the precise moment when his own brother will die in the electric chair – a montage of faces and eyes ratchets up the tension as the seconds tick by. Mann shows his native talent for the film medium in every frame, and he's abetted by Brodie, Burr and that old pro Jason Robards (Sr.) as a police detective. There are flashier and more resonant films in the noir cycle, but for rough, bare-bones entertainment, Desperate is hard to beat.

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