Thursday, April 05, 2012

Criss Cross

Elämän ja kuoleman leikki / På liv och död. US 1949 (year of release) © 1948 Universal Pictures Company. PC: Universal International Pictures. P: Michel Kraike (Michael Kraike). D: Robert Siodmak. SC: Daniel Fuchs – based on the novel Criss-Cross / The Cheat (1934, in Finnish Naarassusi) by Don Tracy. DP: Frank Planer (Franz Planer). Special photography: David S. Horsley. Second unit photography: Paul Ivano. AD: Bernard Herzbrun, Boris Leven. Cost: Yvonne Wood. Makeup: Bud Westmore. Hair: Carmen Dirigo. M: Miklos Rozsa. Song: ”I’ll Remember April”. "Jungle Fantasy" by Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band. S: Leslie I. Carey, Richard DeWeese. ED: Ted J. Kent. Loc: Bunker Hill, Downtown Los Angeles (Hill Street, Angel's Flight Railway, Sunshine Apartments, etc.); Union Station (Alameda Avenue). C: Burt Lancaster (Steve Thompson), Yvonne De Carlo (Anna), Dan Duryea (Slim Dundee), Stephen McNally (lt. Pete Ramires), Richard Lang (Slade Thompson), Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band, Tom Pedi (Vincent), Percy Helton (Frank), Alan Napier (Finchley), Griff Barnett (Pop), Meg Randall (Helen), Joan Miller (the lush), Edna M. Holland (Mrs. Thompson), John Doucette (Walt), Marc Krath (Mort), James O’Rear (Waxie), John "Skins" Miller (midget), Robert Osterloh (Mr. Nelson), James Curtis (= Tony Curtis) (Anna's dancing partner), Gene Evans (a guard). Helsingin premiere: 3.3.1950 Tuulensuu, distributor: Bio-Kuva – VET 31311 – K16 – 2450 m / 88 min. A Universal Studios print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 5 April 2012.

Robert Siodmak at his romantic best. In Siodmak's early films noirs Ella Raines was the benign life-force who stirred the man from his desperation; in his late films noirs the woman has turned into a femme fatale. In Siodmak's early films noirs love opened the man's eyes; in his late films noirs love blinds.

Criss Cross is a tragedy, not a melodrama. It is a triangle story of Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster), Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), and Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) set in gangland, interpreted as tragedy. Anna's character belongs to the Carmen tradition: she is a wild life-force, free as a bird. Both Steve and Slim commit the tragic error of trying to claim her. The tragic approach elevates the film: the performances, the cinematography of Frank Planer, and the score by Miklos Rozsa (with fleeting Wagnerian affinities).

Great sequences: the Langian opening helicopter camera movement descending from the sky; the rhumba sequence; Burt's unflinching stare at Yvonne in the bar; the "perfect" armored car robbery with a tear gas surprise; the shadows in the hospital room mirror (a thrilling sequence that may have inspired The Godfather); the tragic nocturnal conclusion in the beach house.

Burt Lancaster is honing his persona as a man of exceptional strength, yet "the sucker of all times", at his most impressive as the terribly injured hospital patient in bandages, helpless and passive in the final encounter with Love and Death in the secluded beach house.

Yvonne De Carlo got her first great role in Criss Cross after years in bit parts and trivial assignments. She had a long career, but Anna in Criss Cross remained her most significant performance (she played also Sephora, the wise wife of Moses in Ten Commandments, the female lead in Band of Angels, and the female lead in The Munsters).

The print is good.

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