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  • Film Noir Double Feature (Illegal / The Big Steal)
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Film Noir Double Feature (Illegal / The Big Steal)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When ambitious D.A. Victor Scott's career falls out from under him after an overzealous prosecution, he resorts to representing mob stooges and other criminal low-lifes in Illegal (Edward G. Robinson. 1955/88 min.). Next up, it's a game of cat and mouse in Veracruz when a wanted American army lieutenant hunts down the smooth-talking grifter that took him for a 300,000-dollar ride in The Big Steal (Robert Mitchum. 1949/71 min.). B&w/NR.


There's satisfaction to be had from the pairing of Illegal and The Big Steal--even if neither qualifies as film noir. Illegal (1955) is the third version of The Mouthpiece, a '30s play and film about an esteemed district attorney who falls from grace but rebounds as a spellbinding defense attorney much-sought-after by the criminal class. It was probably the best part Edward G. Robinson had in the '50s, and he's all the reason we need for watching. But the role and the story predated noir (the previous renditions came out in 1932 and 1940), and this movie, for all intents and purposes, postdates noir. In addition, sad to say, it's an artifact from that era when Warner Bros.' movies had started looking like the studio's TV shows. By contrast, The Big Steal (1949) springs from the heart of the classic noir era, was produced for perhaps the most noir-friendly of studios, RKO, and even boasts the costars and screenwriter of the sublime Out of the Past--which is to say, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Daniel Mainwaring (a.k.a. "Geoffrey Homes"). The whirlwind first reel plops us right in the middle of several chases, with as many switcheroos of allegiance and direction, in pursuit of an "it" that won't be specified till some time later. All nimbly managed by director Don Siegel, on location in Mexico yet, and briskly over with in 72 minutes. But it's a comedy-adventure, not a film noir. Not even close. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Edward G. Robinson, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, Original recording remastered, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 31, 2007
  • Run Time: 160 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PKG7CK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,439 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Film Noir Double Feature (Illegal / The Big Steal)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By W. Walker on August 9, 2007
Verified Purchase
I bought this recently released double feature mostly for "The Big Steal", so I'll start with that. Just a fun fast-moving film, dominated by the reluctant unfolding romantic duo of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, but with a fine supporting cast, headed by William Bendix. While Bob is chasing Jane(so to speak), the long car chase through mostly rural Mexico adds to the feeling of exotic fun. The commentary version, featuring Richard Jewell, is well worth listening to. We learn this film underwent considerable revision during production because of multiple censor board problems, thus explaining some of the lapses in plot continuity. Thus, it ended up a chase thriller-scewball comedy combo rather than the film noire it apparently was supposed to be(I'm glad). During production, Mitchum spent a short stretch in jail in connecion with his drug possession charge. Apparently, it was hoped the judge would not sentence Mitchum to jail time during shooting. Howard Hughes was forced to cast Jane Greer as the female lead despite his desire to end her career for spiteful reasons. No other potential female lead approached would risk her career to play opposite Mitchum after his much publicized drug bust. As it turned out, the movie-going public immediately forgave Mitchum, perhaps because it seemed to fit his typical screen persona as a devil-may-care rebel. The sizzling on-screen chemistry between Mitchum and Greer demonstrated in a prior film sizzled again in this one, as far as the censor board would allow it.
I'm not much into Eddie Robinson films, except for his mesmerizing performance in "The Sea Wolf". However, I found "Illegal" to be moderately entertaining, if sometimes bewildering, with too many convenient coincidences.
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Truth in advertising disclosure: These two movies are noirs only in the imagination of Warner Home Video`s marketing department. Illegal is a crime melodrama. The Big Steal is a crime chase with a light touch and a few dark shadows.

Illegal (1955):
This movie starring Edward G. Robinson brings mixed feelings: Admiration for Robinson's skill and stature as an actor; affection for the man, who was a decent and admirable human being; and sadness bordering on disgust for the kind of movies, such as this one, Robinson made beginning in the early Fifties. He'd been unofficially blacklisted during the Commie witch-hunts of the late Forties and Fifties. The studio heads wanted no trouble from Congressional investigations or write-ups in such virulent rags as Red Channels. Robinson's crime: It was whispered that he was too liberal. To make a living and to continue acting, Robinson had to take on such things as Vice Squad (1953), Black Tuesday (1954), Tight Spot, A Bullet for Joey and Illegal (all 1955). It wasn't until Frank Sinatra insisted Robinson be cast in A Hole in the Head in 1959, when Robinson was 66, that studio heads decided that he was safe enough to be used in A-level movies.

Ambitious, competitive D.A. Victor Scott (Robinson) sends an innocent man to the chair. It was a mistake, but that doesn't help the man who was executed. Now the man the newspapers called the Napoleon of the Courtroom not only has his career destroyed, but his belief in himself as a prosecutor. He quits as D.A. From now on Scott will fight for the defense. Well, you know how it goes. Before long Scott is defending crooks and killers. He's aggressive in the court, using every trick, emotion and manipulation to win.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By hyperbolium on February 1, 2009
1955's Illegal isn't so much a noir as a potboiler. Edward G. Robinson plays hard-charging district attorney Victor Scott whose wrongful conviction of Edward Clary (played by Star Trek's DeForest Kelley) sends an innocent man to the electric chair. A brief dalliance with the bottle is followed by rebirth as a criminal attorney and eventually a mobster's mouthpiece. The plotting is not particularly suspenseful, and while the dialog (co-written by W.R. Burnett who'd written the novels Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle) has a few snappy lines, it doesn't sustain a hard-boiled tone.

Robinson's starring role, even in this B+ picture, was a plum in 1955, as a HUAC-styled whisper campaign had dimmed his appeal to Hollywood studios. Robinson's co-star, Nina Foch, had been busy with both television and film since the mid-1940s, and from her comments on the bonus track, she was happy to be working with Robinson (who was a friend of her father's), but is none too impressed with the film. Her lengthy Hollywood career, and her post-acting work teaching directing (first at AFI, then as a professor at USC), supplies plenty of unfiltered opinion and dish. She adds insightful details about the mechanics of film making in the mid-50s, and the limitations it placed on actors and directors.

The story's original incarnation, as 1932's The Mouthpiece, had the leads playing love interests, but Robinson and Foch's age difference motivated a rewrite as a foster parent/child, with hints of more.
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