Saturday, July 31
(1951, B. Windust & Uncredited Raoul Walsh) Flash-backs within flash-backs, as D.A. Humphrey Bogart takes on criminal kingpin Everett Sloan via squealer Zero Mostel. 35mm print courtesy UCLA Film & Television Archive. Approx. 87 min.
“AN IDIOSYNCRATIC FILM NOIR… The credited director, Bretaigne Windust, took sick a few days into production and was replaced by the daringly inventive Raoul Walsh, who endows the film’s deadly violence with stylishly macabre flourishes. Yet the movie’s originality is mainly in its script, by Martin Rackin. It gives Bogart the role of a district attorney named Ferguson who—hours before Mendoza (Everett Sloane), the head of a murder ring, is set to be released without charges—searches his investigation files for overlooked evidence. As Ferguson’s interrogations of garish underworld characters are shown in flashbacks, the action that they relate is seen in flashbacks within those flashbacks. The intricate structure lays bare a tentacular network of killers for hire whose members are driven literally mad with fear of Mendoza, but the movie’s frenzied psychology is also historically fascinating: Mendoza’s chilling and cunning criminal enterprise is presented as an innovation—as are the terms ‘contract’ for a killing and ‘hit’ for a victim.”
— Richard Brody, The New Yorker