Is Raw Deal the most beautiful “ménage à trois” in all film history? The late João Bénard da Costa, fond of superlatives, would have called it “un-adjectivable.” Pat (Claire Trevor) loves Joe (Dennis O’Keefe) who loves Ann (Marsha Hunt) who hates Pat who envies Ann who loves Joe who trusts Pat… One generally remembers Anthony Mann’s noir films for their cinematography and mise-en-scène. John Alton’s black-and-white images are indeed remarkable. The precise and elaborate cutting, always relying on depth of field, shot/counter-shot, surprisingly efficient compositions, is a marvel shot after shot. The images are often almost abstract, belonging to and moving away from the plot (eventually leading to Pat and the unstoppable clock inside the ship), becoming iconic by themselves. But what touches me most is Claire Trevor’s deep, whispered voice drawing us into the film and past the prison gate in the tense opening scene (No trespassing—she shouldn’t have crossed that gate and if she hadn’t, the film would have taken another turn, as her rival Ann so desires), catching us inside her mind, as if she were writing the very film unfolding before us. – João Rui Guerra da Mata
Typically dismissed as a minor director whose best work was as assistant to Orson Welles, the talented Norman Foster had a significant career unto his own that began with his work directing some of the best entries in the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto series, but also included a group of accomplished Spanish language genre films made in Mexico. Perhaps the best place to launch a reevaluation of Foster is the rediscovered noir thriller Woman on the Run, starring Ann Sheridan as an estranged wife searching for her embittered artist husband-in-hiding after he is targeted by the mob for accidently witnessing a crime. Joining Sheridan in her rescue mission through the urban underbelly is Dennis O’Keefe’s strangely insistent crime reporter who may have alternate motives. Woman on the Run makes stunning use of its San Francisco and Los Angeles locations to inject a vérité energy and palpable danger into its gripping story, including a thrilling roller coaster climax shot on the Santa Monica pier by pioneering cinematographer Hal Mohr, who across his long career refined dollies and cranes to make possible a richer kind of expressive camera movement.
Image courtesy Collection Austrian Film Museum