Classic Film Review: “Raw Deal” (1948) is as “noir” as Film Noir Gets

I dropped in on the third act of this one on Movies! the other night and was so blown away by the shadows, fog and downbeat tone that I got up at 4 in the morning to watch the whole movie repeated a couple of days later.

Raw Deal” is a clipped, cutting classic noir from Anthony Mann, who went on to do bio-pics (“The Glenn Miller Story”), epics (“El Cid”) and most of Jimmy Stewart’s best Westerns, notably “Winchester ’73.”

But team him up with DP John Alton, who shot “He Walked by Night” and “Talk About a Stranger” and heck, the original “Father of the Bride” movies, and you’ve got the most literal “film noir” of them all.

Dark in tone, dark shadows, foggy nights, with Raymond Burr and John Ireland as the heavies. This is one of the definitive titles of the genre, and I’m shocked I’ve never gotten around to it.

American Movie “Classics” my butt.

Dennis O’Keefe stars as a convict who took the rap for others who escaped prison. Now, he’s gotten out and he’s here to collect what’s due him.

“As they say, life begins with 50 G’s.”

Yeah, that’s the plot of “Point Blank” and plenty of other gangland tales, but this was one of the first.

There are “dames” (Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt), double-crosses and pitiless violence.

And hard-boiled dialogue? You bet.

“What do you know about anything? You probably had your bread buttered on both sides since the day you were born. Safe. Safe on first, second, third, and home.

“Keep your eye on “Miss Law and Order” here. She might go soprano on us.”

“Why don’t you just take that hole in your head and close it?”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ireland some years ago at a Western film festival. He’s known for “Red River” and “Spartacus,” sure. But noirs like this and “All the King’s Men” and even the original “The Fast and the Furious” were home to his most dazzling turns.

Burr was a good heavy long before Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” before “Godzilla” and before he was the “Perry Mason” generations remembered before HBO went all prequel on the lawyer’s lawyer.

Trevor (“Key Largo,” “Stagecoach,” “Murder My Sweet”) is a screen legend.

O’Keefe is the least familiar member of the cast to me, but he was in the noir “T-Men” (lit and shot by John Alton) and the original “Brewster’s Millions.” He’s hard here. VERY hard.

I never cease to be amazed by the punch a 79 minute movie could pack, back at the end of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”

MPAA Rating: Unrated, violence, and lots of it.

Cast: Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, John Ireland and Raymond Burr.

Credits: Directed by Anthony Mann, script by John C. Higgins, Leopold Atlas.

Running time: 1:19

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