Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Walk Alone (1948)

I Walk Alone is a very good and seemingly underrated movie; perhaps because it is in the genre of film noir. It certainly has the pedigree for a good film though, as it boasts Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in their first film appearance together -- and both men deliver excellent performances.

Lancaster plays Frankie Madison, a bootlegger who is leaving prison after 14 years when the movie opens. Frankie goes to find his partner Noll "Dink" Turner (Douglas), who now runs a successful nightclub. Noll had avoided capture and had never served jail time.  In the intervening years, the speakeasy that Frankie and Noll had owned was closed down with the repeal of Prohibition, and Noll had singlehandedly built his current nightclub into a rousing success. Frankie believes that he is entitled to half of Noll's nightclub.  When Noll disagrees, Frankie vows to take what he believes is rightfully his.

Both Lancaster and Douglas are outstanding. Lancaster allows Frankie's anger to smolder until his rage erupts.  Douglas's Noll is both wily and smarmy. Wendell Corey and Lizabeth Scott deliver solid supporting performances. Corey is Noll's accountant who was also the accountant when Frankie and Noll were partners.  Scott is terrific as the smoky-throated chanteuse in Noll's nightclub who thinks she is in love with Noll until Frankie rolls in.

The script of I Walk Alone is sharp and Byron Haskin's direction is tight -- there isn't a wasted minute in the whole movie. Maybe the end of the film gets a little too heavy on the plot, but the movie works as an entertaining,  cohesive whole.  It's a solid example of film noir, and of the work of Lancaster, Douglas, and Scott. It also seems like this is a very early example of the antihero, which became popular in films of the 1970s. Grade: B+.

Fun fact: This movie was used in Carl Reiner's film noir parody Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which starred Steve Martin.

I watched this black-and-white movie on Netflix streaming on December 30,2012.

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