DESPERATE (Anthony Mann, 1947) w/Raymond Burr, Steve Brodie and Audrey Long

Joe Stemme
Member
Joined: July 16th, 2013, 6:38 pm

September 10th, 2018, 7:00 pm #1

 From it's generic title (could be used on just about ANY noir!), to it's second tier cast (if capable), to it's sometimes threadbare production values (you can see the seams in some sets), DESPERATE epitomizes a 40s B Movie crime feature. Still, with some crafty filmmaking and a decent enough plot hook, it rises about the commonplace.

 Trucker Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) gets a call to do a night-time haul at well over his usual rate. Ignoring the dictum that if an offer is too good to be true it probably is, Steve accepts. He ends up in the middle of a robbery heist by a group of thugs led by Walt Radak (Raymond Burr). Despite his efforts to get out of the situation, Steve ends up caught between the law and the criminals. "Desperate', he ends up on the lam with his new wife Anne (Audrey Long). Of course, Radak and his boys aren't going to just let Steve and his bride go scott free and they set out to get him. The cops, in the form of Detective Ferrari (Jason Robards Sr.), trap the couple from the other side of the law.

 Despite it's lean plot, DESPERATE at times lacks urgency. Radak seems content to let others do his bidding including weasely investigator Pete Lavich (enjoyably played by Douglas Fowley). Ferrari too, dithers in his quest to catch the bad guys. It adds up to a lack of urgency at times despite the title. Even at a trim 73 minutes the move plods along in the middle act. Brodie was never a major star despite his long career, but, fits the part of an everyman. Long is a bit bland, but the part isn't sharply written. Burr, playing the first of his long line of Noir heavies is very good, particularly during a tense 'countdown' sequence. Cinematographer George E. Diskant was a Noir expert (ON DANGEROUS GROUND, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, NARROW MARGIN), and composes some extremely well chosen shots despite the limited budget. Director Anthony Mann (another Noir vet) does a solid job and contributed to the script (credited to Harry Essex).

 What really raises DESPERATE a tick above the mediocre is the smashing climax. The resolution of the story isn't really a surprise, but, it's well staged and performed, with a rising tension -- all building from the aforementioned 'countdown' scene. A B movie through and through, but not a bad second feature, with the added stature of being a key building block to the careers of Burr and Mann.
Quote
Like
Share

telegonus
Member
Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

September 13th, 2018, 11:42 pm #2

A good one, with Brodie and Burr well cast. Truly, it doesn't rock, but it plays well even as it demands patience. I like the ending very much. It takes a while to get there but it's worth it. Anthony Mann had the goods, didn't always use all he had, or maybe his bosses reined him in sometimes.
Quote
Like
Share

Rapfred
Member
Joined: December 9th, 2004, 10:18 am

September 14th, 2018, 12:37 pm #3

The main trouble spot is the lackluster script.  Mann took the film's one good plot device -- innocent young couple on the lam from the law and lawbreakers -- and ran with it in the vastly superior SIDE STREET (1950).  
Quote
Like
Share

Joe Stemme
Member
Joined: July 16th, 2013, 6:38 pm

September 14th, 2018, 10:54 pm #4

Rapfred wrote: The main trouble spot is the lackluster script.  Mann took the film's one good plot device -- innocent young couple on the lam from the law and lawbreakers -- and ran with it in the vastly superior SIDE STREET (1950).  
SIDE STREET is better, but, I wouldn't say 'vastly' so. After a boffo opening, it, too, bogs down in the middle before rallying at the end.
Quote
Like
Share

telegonus
Member
Joined: July 27th, 2006, 12:07 pm

September 15th, 2018, 4:20 am #5

I agree regarding Side Street. Its major characters (both of them) are easier to identify with than the more generic players of Desperate, which vibes B from start to finish, while SS feel rather like a modest A, even has a kind of "message".
Quote
Like
Share