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T-Men (1947)


T-Men (1947)

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If you know of Anthony Mann's work at all, it's probably from seeing the minor epic El Cid or Winchester '73, one of many Westerns he made in the '50s and '60s. Mann's first projects of any note, however, were stark, brusque crime stories, three of which have now been made available on home video. T-Men is a super-manly Secret Service tale of chasing counterfeiters, complete with the tersely narrated tedium of a painstaking manhunt on San Francisco's seedier side and a dangerous blonde who just kind of got wrapped up in the whole mess. He Walked By Night takes the police procedural a step further by showcasing the entire LAPD as it methodically tracks down a cunning and inventive killer. Look for a very young Jack Webb as a crime-lab technician, and you'll also see how much he stole from this movie to use on Dragnet—from the show's expositional narrative to the creepy, clipped way the cops talk. Raw Deal switches viewpoints to the criminal and immerses the viewer in noir as we watch a man break out of prison with the help of his girl; take a lovely young hostage; and become entangled in a love triangle while en route to a confrontation with the man who framed him and had him sent up. What begins as campily as the other two eventually takes on deeper shades of meaning as the characters become conflicted about themselves and each other; the script actually improves as the movie progresses. T-Men and He Walked By Night both have gripping black-and-white visuals: There's a chase through L.A.'s cavernous storm sewers, and a hellish murder by live steam. Raw Deal adds dramatic tension to its imagery of foggy back roads and burning hotels to become a minor noir masterpiece. Throw in Raymond Burr as the most evil man in the world, and you have a beautiful little cult classic.