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  Criss Cross Love Is Like An Armoured Car
Year: 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, Steve McNally, Esy Morales, Tom Pedi, Percy Helton, Alan Napier, Griff Barnett, Meg Randall, Richard Long, Joan Miller, Edna Holland, John Doucette, Mark Krah, James O'Rear, Tony Curtis, Gene Evans
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) has waited outside this nightclub in the car park for his lover Anna Dundee (Yvonne De Carlo) and when she shows up, they immediately fall into an embrace and a hushed conversation. They should not be having this relationship under the nose of her gangster husband Slim (Dan Duryea), but they have a history together - they used to be married, until Steve decided he had to get away no matter how much he loved her. Back in the club, Slim confronts Anna and she fobs him off with excuses, making him angrier until he and Steve end up in a fight in a back room - the resident cop Ramirez (Steve McNally) sniffs around, but they refuse to be drawn...

That is because they both have a plan that does not call for the police getting involved, yes, we were in heist movie territory once again, only writer and director Robert Siodmak was one of the real instigators of the avalanche of such crime pictures to arrive in the nineteen-fifties, and indeed continues to this day. Siodmak was instrumental in many such things, a very influential man who can be said to have been one of the architects of film noir, the major cinematic movement in Hollywood of the forties and most of the fifties, though in real life his talent was his undoing and he became too good for the studios to handle, tragically dying years later alone and in poverty.

It was an ending sad enough for one of his protagonists, and a warning about how showbiz can drain every last iota of inspiration from you to leave you spent and with nothing to show for it when it inevitably moves on. Well, nothing except the movie buffs who still remember your contribution and enjoy returning to the work you left behind, and Criss Cross was one of Siodmak's most typical efforts with its sense of impending doom and cast given the confidence boost to do their best under his careful direction. He had discovered Lancaster for The Killers, another noir (and casually discovered Tony Curtis into the bargain on this one), but put him to better use in this instance.

Around half the story was in flashback, maybe more, as Steve guides us around the circumstances that brought them to the heist scheme, which came across as a self-sabotaging method of scripting until you noted that we were introduced to the affair and the crime early to offer us a reason to keep watching, to see if either or both succeeded. This being noir, well what do you think? So predictability was an issue, there was no getting around that, but set that to one side and drink in that rich atmosphere and appreciate the stark, mysterious black and white photography and you would perceive what the appeal of films like this was. De Carlo was an ideal femme fatale, not every noir had one, but they did help, and she was an intriguing bad girl who seems to have a conscience.

Yet does she? Anna kept you guessing right up to the final scene, she appears to love Steve, and her husband being played by Duryea, one of the greatest louse and heel actors in the Golden Age of Hollywood, means you can believe she would want to get away, but foolishly the sole motive for encouraging Slim to take part in the heist is to cover up Steve's bond with Anna and explain why they were spending so much time together. Therefore, there was no real reason for the crime to go ahead at all, which contributes to the "What's the point in anything?" weight hanging over the characters, that doom impending with palpable importance as fate closes in no matter what choices they make. That was the signature style of Criss Cross, you could regard them all as idiots for staging an armoured car robbery - over and over they are reminded what a stupid idea it is - but this chose to remind you we all make stupid mistakes, it's in our nature, and there was nothing we could do to change that. Music by Miklos Rosza.

[Eureka release this title on Blu-ray (looking fantastic) with the following features:

New 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative
Uncompressed LPCM monaural audio
Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
New audio commentary by film author Lee Gambin and actress Rutanya Alda
New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Screen Director's Playhouse radio adaptation from 1949, featuring Burt Lancaster
Isolated music & effects track
Theatrical trailer
A collector's booklet featuring new writing by film historian Kat Ellinger; an essay by Adam Batty; archival writing and imagery
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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