on January 1, 2006
Eddie Rice (John Payne) is a WWII veteran that's just been released out of the hospital. Because of a combat injury, he has complete amnesia. The only thing he knows is that he came from Los Angeles, so he goes to the city looking for someone, anyone, who might recognize him and help him unravel his past. Unfortunately, the first ones to recognize him are cops, who know him by another name, Eddie Riccardi, cold-blooded gangster. But they don't know that he's totally forgotten his notorious past. After being released by the cops, Eddie runs into his ex-wife, Nina (Ellen Drew) who's not too pleased to see him. The Eddie she knew was cruel and heartless, and of course she's very reluctant to believe his amnesia story. The next one to find out that "Eddie's back in town" is Eddie's former mob boss, Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts). Vince is also upset that Eddie has returned, because Eddie had double-crossed him years ago and Vince has been waiting to get revenge ever since.
Because of the watchful eyes of the local cops and detectives, Vince sees that killing Eddie and getting away with it is impossible. So, he does the next best thing. He frames Eddie for the murder of a respected police officer, and before long Eddie (with plenty of angry cops looking for him) is wishing he'd just stayed at the hospital and left his past as a blank space. He finally convinces his ex-wife that his amnesia is genuine, and she finally decides to help him escape from the police as well as try to clear himself before his rediscovered life is brought to a tragic end. And while he's at it, Eddie sparks up a new romance with his ex-wife, who's very pleased with the "new" Eddie that`s kind and loving. With the cops closing in fast on Eddie, he bravely decides to take on Vince and his gang alone in a deserted building. Will the cops arrive in time to save Eddie, or will they find nothing but corpses filled with lead? Watch and find out!
1949's "The Crooked Way" is an obscure but highly enjoyable film noir, with some of the most stylish noir photography and lighting I've ever seen. This is because the cinematography was handled by the legendary John Alton, the most recognized and respected name in film noir cinematography. To be honest, I've never thought of John Payne as a great actor. However, with his gloomy, cynical personality and his frequent frowning, he was perfect for film noir, and appeared in several classics besides this one ("Kansas City Confidential", "Slightly Scarlet", "99 River Street", "Hell's Island"). With sharp dialogue, a well-crafted and fast-paced plot, and amazing cinematography, "The Crooked Way" is a great film noir that deserves a better reputation. Recently released on DVD by Geneon Entertainment, the picture quality is wonderful. The sound quality was only average, but considering the very low price of the DVD I have no complaints. If you enjoy classic noir films, then add this gem to your collection!
on December 3, 2013
This tense noir stars John Payne as a WWII veteran who is released from a hospital suffering from an extreme case of amnesia. The war wound has left him a permanent amnesiac, and Eddie Rice, played by Payne, returns to Los Angeles to attempt to piece his life back together. He is quickly arrested by 2 police detectives, who recognize him as Eddie Ricardi, who was a former employee of the notorious mob boss, Sonny Tufts. The police are skeptical about Eddie's memory, but have no reason to hold him at this time. They no sooner release him when he is taken and then beaten up badly by members of Sonny's gang. No one, especially even his ex-wife, Nina, played by Ellen Drew, seems pleased to see Eddie again. When he is subsequently framed for murder, he has no choice, but to find the real killer and clear his name by navigating through the crooked underbelly of Los Angeles. The film was based on the radio play, "No Blade Too Sharp", written by Robert Monroe. The theme of an amnesiac victim who must act as a detective in an effort to uncover his past is a familiar one in noir circles. What truly elevates this film is the stunning cinematography by the remarkable Mr. John Alton. Alton's use of chiaroscuro totally ramped-up the use of authentic locations to provide some stunning visuals. In addition, director Robert Florey utilized his knowledge of both expressionism and surrealism to fully capitalize on Alton's excellent talents. The final scene of a warehouse shootout is especially excellent. For all who are aware of Alton's talents, it is no surprise that almost every frame of the film is exceptional with it's visuals. Along with the excellent photography by Alton, there is some top-level acting turned in by most in the cast. Exceptional roles are turned in by John Payne as Eddie Rice/Ricardi, Ellen Drew as his ex-wife Nina, Vince Alexander as mob boss Sonny Tufts, and noir veteran Percy Helton as Petey. The running time of the film is 86 minutes. It is presented in full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0. In addition, the film transfer by Geneon is surprisingly very good! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! SMRZ!!
on February 14, 2016
The image of the 2005 Geneon DVD blows this Blu ray away... totally.
The movie gets 4.5 stars for being a legit noir.
How could a DVD image be better than a Blu ray?
The reason, I believe, is that “The Crooked Way” is in the Public Domain. When a movie is in the Public Domain it is up for grabs to anyone or any entity to put out for sale in any kind of condition they can get their hands on. Geneon put out their DVD in 2005 and obviously had a near pristine visual source for their transfer. I see no evidence of DNR or grain removal or other digital tinkering on the DVD from Geneon.
Now, John Alton was the cinematographer for “The Crooked Way”. He also photographed: The Outlaw, Bury Me Dead, T-Men, Raw Deal, The Amazing Mr. X, He Walked By Night, Border Incident, I the Jury, The Big Combo etc... all significant noirs. He was known for using as little lighting as possible to create shadows and impressive light-to-dark effects. He wrote a book titled: Painting With Light which is a primer for his noir work and a lighting guide to all Directors of Photography still.
The image of the Blu ray in the Kino Lorber release has either been “brightened” to bring out more shadow detail (which was NOT intended by John Alton) or the print was so washed out by being lensed so many times that the projector lights washed it out. It has tear marks & glitches galore and, to add insult to injury, the DTS HD audio is not much better than the Geneon 2005 DVD.
The Geneon DVD from 2005 has INKY black levels... so inky that ONLY the intended focus of the scene (be it human or production design) is lighted. THIS, is exactly the way John Alton worked. He lit the scenes for the intended subject and let the rest fall into shadows. He was a very insistent cinematographer and had a reputation for being very demanding to work with. In 1951, he and Alfred Gilks were awarded the Academy Award for color photography for “An American in Paris”.
All I'm saying is that the image of this Blu ray is NOT what John Alton intended based on his work in the above mentioned Film Noirs. Do yourself a favor, trust me, get the Geneon release and see the image as intended, granted, the audio has pops, hiss and crackles but the dialog heavy film is easily understood. Because, after all, Film Noir is first and foremost about visual “atmosphere” & chiaroscuro (the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting) and the Geneon 2005 DVD has it in spades (as in, Sam Spade)!
We watched about 20 minutes of this Blu ray, turned it off and put on the Geneon 2005 DVD and were FLOORED at how much better the DVD image came off. I relegated the Blu ray to my closet for a future trade in.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE most Blu ray images/sound and have an extensive collection of Blu rays but, if you love Film Noir, this Kino Lorber release of “The Crooked Way” is a WASTE of TIME. Don't believe Gary Tooze at dvdbeaver.com on this one... he's wrong.
on January 11, 2016
The film is a solid noir, photographed by the great John Alton. BUT, the blu-ray by Kino Lorber is very, very poor in quality. Most of the film has either undulations or visible white noise and they destroy the photography. Not worth the price.
"The Crooked Way" is a minor film noir from 1949 with a familiar premise. Eddie Rice (John Payne) is a World War II veteran who has been in a rehabilitation hospital in San Francisco due to amnesia. A piece of shrapnel imbedded in his brain has caused him to loose all memory of his life and identity. Army records say only that he is Eddie Rice from Los Angeles. So he goes to Los Angeles in hopes that someone will recognize him, and someone does. Two police officers stop him at the train station and take him in for questioning. They say he is Eddie Ricardi, a gangster who ratted out his colleague Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts) to save himself before skipping town 5 years ago. His ex-wife Nina Martin (Ellen Drew) also recognizes Eddie and rings Vince to say he's back in town.
"The Crooked Way" was based on a radio play called "No Blade Too Sharp" and directed by Robert Florey. The cinematographer is John Alton. The print I watched is very high contrast, to the point that shadows are often completely black. I don't know if the contrast on that print or transfer might be too high, but, as Alton is famous for not caring about detail in shadows, I'm inclined to think this is just a very high contrast film, like the great T-Men. In any case, this is a classic scenario of a man with no memory trying to discover himself, only to discover that he was not a good guy. He cannot recapture his memory or escape his past. It's reminiscent of the 1946 film noir Somewhere in the Night, a more iconic film that takes itself less seriously.
John Payne is tall, handsome, and tough as Eddie Rice, but he isn't given a lot to do. Eddie is a simpler character than "Somewhere in the Night"'s George Taylor. He seems oddly unfazed to learn that he was a sadistic thug in a previous life. Police Lieutenant Williams (Rhys Williams) has a quality unlike any policeman I've seen on film: a disarming combination of affability and nerve. Nothing scares him, and he is equally at ease with cops and gangsters. His manner is non-threatening; his pursuit of justice in not. "The Crooked Way" is not complex. It's dialogue is not especially sharp. But it is an entertaining film characteristic of the noir style.
The DVD (Geneon 2005): This is a grainy print, but there are only a few scratches or visible flaws apart from the grain, so it's not bad. Sound is ok. It isn't distracting, but it's not quite clean either. As I mentioned, the film is unusually high contrast, even for 1940s crime film, but I chalk that up to Alton. There are no subtitles, bonus features, or scene menu.
on August 8, 2012
John Payne's Eddie Rice (aka Riccardi) got some shrapnel embedded into his head during WW2 and now he can't remember anything about his past or who he even is. All that he knows is that he's from L.A., and that turns out to be far more than he bargained for. As soon as he arrives in town he's pegged by the cops. It seems that his pre-war years were somewhat shady. Payne is befuddled and determined to sort things out, and it all soon spirals downward in true fatalistic Noir fashion.
Thanks to John Alton's camera and Robert Florey's assured direction THE CROOKED WAY is a textbook example of the Noir look/style. Scene after scene, image after image. Great on location shots of L.A., day and night, a true historical time capsule. Lots of shadows and neon. And it's really a pretty good film as well as Eddie Rice finds his true self and even his wife! Top-notch directing and acting by great cast...and the dvd by GENEON is excellent for a low budget label, with a beautiful, crisp transfer. A super buy for all Noir fans. 5-STARS.
on March 8, 2015
Tough, taut crime drama with good, solid performances from stars Johmn Payne, Ellen Drew and Sonny Tifts. b In particular, Sonny Tufts is
thoroughly convincing and menacing as the gangster kingpin. plot focuses on a former soldier with a lapse of memory trying to retrace his past.
He finds it eventually, much to his chagrin. Moves well and is quite convincing. Character actor Percy Helton is very, very good.
If you believe that noir is a style more than a genre and that you'll recognize the style as soon as you see it, you'll have The Crooked Way pegged ten minutes in. That's when Eddie Rice (John Payne), a war vet who won the Silver Star and has a hunk of shrapnel in his brain, hits the streets of Los Angeles to find out who he is. Eddie has spent five years in an Army hospital in San Francisco while doctors worked to help him recover his memory. He has complete amnesia. But as his doctors point out, there's amnesia and there's amnesia. Eddie has the kind that's organic. His brain has been damaged and nothing will bring back his past. He can start anew. All Eddie knows is that his papers say he enlisted in Los Angeles. That's where he goes to see if he can find someone who knows who he was. And that's when John Alton's great noirsh cinematography kicks in. We know we're going to find ourselves walking right next to Eddie Rice in a grandly-lit crime caper of violence and betrayal, of wet streets and dark warehouses, of shadows cast by no sun or moon we've ever seen before, and of harsh, blinding whites and deep, deep blacks. The movie looks great. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed.
As soon as Eddie walks down the steps of the L.A. train station, however, he meets police lieutenant Joe Williams, just by accident. Williams tells Eddie he'd be wise to turn around and leave L.A. for good. It turns out Eddie Rice is really Eddie Riccardi, a crook and an informer who helped put away his friend and partner, crime boss Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts). If Eddie doesn't get out of down, Williams almost chortles, just think of what Vince will do to you. Eddie, again just by accident, then happens to come across Nina Martin (Ellen Drew), who also tells him to get lost. It seems Eddie did her wrong and she now works for Vince...even though she's still Eddie Riccardi's wife. Then Vince learns Eddie's back. Vince is a tough guy who gets mad easily and believes in permanently disposing of people who cross him. He's in the rackets and runs a big gambling operation. By the time Vince and his goons get through with Eddie, Eddie looks worn around the edges. By the time Eddie gets through with Vince, Vince is air-conditioned. But Eddie stays Eddie Rice. All those memories are gone. It seems that he and Nina will, as Eddie says, have a chance at a decent life.
Coincidence plays such a big role in this movie it's apparent the writers didn't seem to have the time to do a better job. Too bad, because elements of the movie are good. The old amnesia device still works. The plot, powered by the uneasy, threatening style Alton creates, moves briskly. And for those who really enjoy the worn-down look of Los Angeles in the late Forties, the movie is a treat. Much of the movie was filmed in some grubby parts of down-town Los Angeles. When Eddie stops to get a glass of orange juice, he's at what looks like an Orange Julius stand. Later, at night, we see streets filled with open-window shops selling ten-cent red hots, tamales and "Western Farms Fresh Churned Buttermilk." A set of narrow stairs leads to a grubby hot-sheet second floor hotel next to a flashy dance hall. A worn-out movie house is showing Pitfall with Dick Powell.
As for the acting, it's a mixed bag. John Payne has always seemed to me to be stiff and empty as an actor. He has two expressions here, puzzled and sad or as if someone is stepping on his big toe. Sonny Tufts was a big, blond guy with a light voice and a meaty face. He started to hit the big time in the mid-Forties, usually as a big, lovable lug. Then booze hit him hard. It didn't help when two women filed separate charges against him for biting their thighs. Neither he not his career ever recovered. He became a punch-line for comedians. Tufts tries to make Vince menacing by often speaking in a kind of whisper. With his light voice, he sounds like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Alice Faye. But then we have Rhys Williams as Lt. Joe Williams. He does a fine job as an energetic, confident cop who likes to bait the bad guys. Most of all, we have that wonderful, odd character actor, Percy Helton. He was a small, round-headed, balding man with an unforgettable high, squeaky voice. If you've seen him, you won't forget him. He almost always played unreliable or slimy or cowardly characters. In The Crooked Way, he's a two-bit crook who cares greatly for his sick cat, Samson.
The DVD transfer is surprisingly good, in the order of a solid VHS tape. There are chapter stops but no menu; the movie just starts when you put it in the player. If the price is right and you enjoy B noirs, this might be one worth getting.
on April 26, 2006
Sometimes you need more than an intriguing premise - a guy with amnesia learns he's a gangster with a lot of enemies - and excellent cinematography by John Alton (T-MEN, HE WALKED BY NIGHT) to make an entertaining movie. Based on the positive reviews I've read I had high hopes for this film, but it ended up the one middle-of-the-road review I saw (in "The Film Noir Bible") was the most accurate. This film has the makings of a minor noir classic, but it doesn't happen.
I didn't care for the main character; I felt no sympathy for him because he kept putting himself in harm's way. The female lead had no screen presence and the bad guy wasn't intimidating. I did enjoy the 40's street scenes. Any noir fan should at least watch it once, but I don't think the average film fan will care for it. Nice picture on the DVD though.
Also look for a brief appearance by the often uncredited Jack Overman (T-MEN, BRUTE FORCE, THE LONG NIGHT) as a hood in the scene where Eddie goes to the Golden Horn club.
on October 22, 2010
I liked this much more than the other reviewers. I put off watching it for a long time because of the amnesia angle. It's such a tired premise. (Like multiple personality disorder, the kind of amnesia you see in these films rarely happens in real life. These films make it seem like a common occurance.) But when I finally watched THE CROOKED WAY, I was enchanted. For me, the visual aspects of film are more important than any other elements, like plot or dialogue. That's why I love Noir. And this film, visually, is just as noir as it gets. There are moments of stunning beauty, and some images that are the very essence of Noir iconography. This is, of course, due to John Alton's genius. I also found the story very engaging. I see that the dvd is now out of print. I hope someone like KINO takes this opportunity for a restoration. (The soundtrack is pretty hissy.) If you are a Noir fan, do not miss this film.