CROSSFIRE (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., USA, 86 mins, B&W, 1.37:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Young (Captain Finlay); Robert Mitchum (Sgt. Felix Keeley); Robert Ryan (Sgt. Montgomery); Gloria Grahame (Ginny Tremaine); Paul Kelly (The Man); Sam Levene (Joseph Samuels); Jacqueline White (Mary Mitchell); Steve Brodie (Floyd Bowers); George Cooper (Corp. Arthur Mitchell); Richard Benedict (Bill Williams); Richard Powers (Detective Dick); William Phipps (Leroy); Lex Barker (Harry); Marlo Dwyer (Miss Lewis).
Producer: Adrian Scott; Director: Edward Dmytryk; Writer: John Paxton (Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks); Director of Photography: J. Roy Hunt; Music: Roy Webb; Film Editor: Harry Gerstad; Art Director: Albert S. D’Agostino, Alfred Herman; Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera, John Sturtevant.
Detective Finlay (Young) investigates a group of soldiers who are accused of beating a man to death without an apparent motive in this well-directed and acted film noir based on Brooks’ controversial novel of a homophobic motivated murder (here translated into a hatred of Jews rather than homosexuals).
Dmytryk (also responsible for Murder My Sweet in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Ryan conveys a fine balance of calmness in the early scenes and a descent into desperation as the net closes. Mitchum is solid and confident in an early supporting role, whilst Young displays a world –weariness that would become a signature for the noir police detective. Hunt’s photography is first-rate with most scenes set at night and being low lit giving ample opportunity for contrast and shadow. Paxton’s adaptation provides good dialogue for the actors and generally steers clear of the genre’s more obvious traits. Grahame has some memorable screen time as the painted lady caught up in events.
Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm.
Both producer Scott and director Dmytryk were later accused of communist sympathies and became the first two members of the “Hollywood Ten” who were blacklisted and imprisoned – although Dmytryk was later reprieved.