Sunday, March 28, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Crossfire (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The excellent RKO crime film CROSSFIRE (1947) will be released on Blu-ray this week by the Warner Archive.

The movie was previously released on DVD in 2005 and reissued by the Warner Archive on DVD in 2017.

I last saw CROSSFIRE on VHS in 2007 so I can't say how the DVDs looked, but the new Blu-ray print is a thing of black and white beauty. I derived a great deal of pleasure from the movie's beautiful look -- but beyond that, it's a terrific film, which is sadly still timely in 2021.

I had put off revisiting it for so many years as I hoped to next see it on a big screen at a film festival, but with film festivals still months off, the Blu-ray was a terrific alternative.

Three fine actors named Robert -- Young, Mitchum, and Ryan -- star in this story of a police detective (Young) trying to solve the murder of a Jewish man (Sam Levene) by one of a group of soldiers who have very recently left the military.

Mitchum plays a cagey army sergeant who doesn't believe the prime suspect (George Cooper) is guilty, and he plays a key role in helping the detective track down the real culprit (Ryan), whose identity is known to the viewer early on.

I find this police procedural fascinating; it has a literate Oscar-nominated script by John Paxton, based on a novel by Richard Brooks, and wonderful performances.

Ryan, also Oscar-nominated, is almost scary to watch as an increasingly unhinged, snarling anti-Semite. His performance provides a marvelous contrast with Young and Mitchum, who are both relaxed and laid back, yet equally compelling.

One of the best scenes comes early in the film when Ryan makes his anti-Semitic feelings clear during a police interview; the camera focuses on Young, who takes a lengthy pause before speaking again. For perhaps three long seconds, the viewer can see every thought going through Young's mind without him ever saying a word, after which he resumes his questioning.

I also enjoy the discussions with the pipe-smoking Young and the unruffled Mitchum in shadowy rooms; the way they hold the viewer's attention is a tribute to both the actors and the beautiful black and white cinematography of J. Roy Hunt.

When I first saw this film, I hadn't yet seen THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), which has become a favorite film, so it was a treat to return to this now appreciating Jacqueline White, who plays the initial murder suspect's wife. She brings appeal and believability to a small role with a couple of key scenes.

Gloria Grahame is also in the film, playing a typically hard-bitten Grahame character; I've never been a particular admirer, though I tolerate her in small doses, and she's fine here in an Oscar-nominated performance.

Director Edward Dmytryk was also nominated for the Oscar, and the film itself received a Best Picture nomination. The Best Picture winner that year was GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT (1947), which also tackled anti-Semitism.

The top-notch supporting cast includes Steve Brodie, Lex Barker, Paul Kelly, Richard Benedict, and William Phipps.

That's former cowboy star Tom Keene, billed as Richard Powers, playing Young's fellow detective; he's pictured here with Mitchum and Young.  Fun trivia: Keene starred in a Western titled CROSS FIRE (1933).

Extras carried over from the original 2005 DVD release are a featurette ("Crossfire: Hate is Like a Gun") and a commentary track by Alain Silver and James Ursini, which also includes archival comments from director Dmytryk.

As mentioned above, the Warner Archive Blu-ray print looks wonderful.  The soundtrack is also excellent.


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Hi Laura
I first saw "CROSSFIRE" as a youngster on our family TV many (very many) years ago. A powerful and superbly constructed and acted movie that seems to just get better every time I see it.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Great to hear it is on blu Ray. The three Roberts work so well together.

1:27 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Wonderful review and I love the way various supporting cast members are name dropped. Always enjoy William Phipps and I recently got the Blu Ray of FIVE where he has the lead role. The commentary states that while filming FIVE during the day he was also appearing on stage in the evening with Charles Laughton...some of those character actors have amazing back stories. Needless to say my copy of CROSSFIRE is in the post...cannot wait.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I love that you remember first seeing CROSSFIRE on your family TV. My own first viewing was thanks to borrowing a VHS tape from my dad right around the time I was first getting into film noir. I think I enjoyed it even more this time. It really is good.

Vienna, I agree about the three Roberts. As noir or Western fans I think we all appreciate Mitchum and Ryan, but rewatching this I really appreciated what Young brought to the role and his interplay with the other two Roberts.

John, thank you so much! William Phipps is special to me as he voiced Prince Charming in the classic Disney film CINDERELLA (1950). I wasn't familiar with FIVE (1951), which he made the year after CINDERELLA, and looked it up. Interesting! Great back story on his play. And while I'm here, CONGRATS on doing the Western Movies podcast. I'll be listening to it in the near future!

Best wishes,

4:35 PM  

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