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Thieves' Highway (The Criterion Collection) (1949)

Richard Conte , Valentina Cortese , Jules Dassin  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie
  • Directors: Jules Dassin
  • Writers: A.I. Bezzerides
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Robert Bassler
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006Z2NDQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,657 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Thieves' Highway (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by Alain Silver, editor of The Film Noir Reader and author of Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles
  • Video interview with director Jules Dassin
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A new essay by film critic Michael Sragow

Editorial Reviews

The rugged world of long-haul trucking knits perfectly with classic film noir dynamics in this sizzling, underrated picture. Navy veteran Richard Conte returns home to California, only to plunge into a revenge scenario and a scheme to haul the season's first apples to the teeming San Francisco fruit market (a place seen as a nocturnal jungle for the survival of the fittest). Lee J. Cobb enjoys himself enormously as the chiseling boss at the Frisco market, Millard Mitchell is wry as Conte's angle-playing trucking partner, and Valentina Cortese adds a bright, sexy exoticism to the multi-layered duplicitous dame. Director Jules Dassin, in his last American-shot film before blacklisting, shows his expressive abilities with shadowy interiors and road-movie exteriors alike. The punchy screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides, whose trucking experiences also fueled They Drive by Night, is a textbook case for the complexities of pulp--not apples, fiction. --Robert Horton

Product Description

Thieves’ Highway is set in the world of "long-haul boys" who drive by night to bring their goods to the markets of America’s cities. Ex-G.I. Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) is a tyro trucker bent on satisfaction from the man responsible for crippling his father—ruthless market operator Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). Along the way, he is seduced by siren Rica (Valentina Cortesa) and drawn into the San Francisco produce racket—landing him in a web of treachery and heartbreak. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this Jules Dassin masterpiece, the last film he completed in America before he was blacklisted.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific movie and great commentary February 23, 2005
I'm a big fan of both film noir and commentary tracks, and this disk has the best commentary of any film noir I've yet seen. It's done by Alain Silver, author of several books on noir, and coeditor of the "you gotta have it" reference book on noir: The Film Noir Encyclopedia. I was particularly impressed with the professional production values of the commentary. Silver will mention a key piece of dialog, and precisely on cue he'll stop talking and the sound level of the movie will come up so you can hear what he was talking about. Several times I found myself wondering how they timed things so neatly.

Silver does a great job of pointing out the thousand details that make the movie work as a movie, the turns of plot that are typical of film noir, the use of darkness and shadow, the framing of scenes and placement of the actors, etc., etc.

Other reviewers have put in their vote for the quality of Thieves' Highway as a compelling and well made movie. I'd like to add my plug for the commentary track. In addition to being darn good entertainment, this is a movie that rewards careful examination and thoughtful reflection. Silver's comments are terrific guide to that reward.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film noir through the truck lights... February 21, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Vultures prey upon the dead, as they are a vital part of the ecosystem that helps with environmental sanitization. Humans, however, are a different story, as they prey upon the living, the dead, and sometimes kill to accomplish their desired result. The reasons to why a person would go to great lengths to achieve desired results varies from person to person, but it often has to do with money. Jules Dassin's story Theives' Highway is an illustration of humans and their greed, which appears to be the motivation factor to break the compassionate fabric of moral value, ethics, and kindness in the true spirit of film noir.

Unlike film noir Thieves' Highway opens with Nick Garcos' (Richard Conte) homecoming during a sunny afternoon accompanied by hearing his father singing in the kitchen. Nick has brought presents to all of his family members and a bundle of money, which he has earned in order to settle down. The money should help Nick get married to Polly (Barbara Lawrence) and go into business with her father. However, this joyous moment is suddenly halted, as Nick finds out that his father has lost his legs.

Nick's father informs him of how he lost his legs, as he had done business with a certain Mr. Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). The story that Nick hears makes him cringe in anger, as he understands that Mr. Figlia had set up his dad through a dubious plan. When Nick heard the whole story he decides to return to his father's truck, as the man, Ed Prentiss (Millard Mitchell), who bought it had not yet paid for the truck. However, Nick goes into business with Ed and together they pick up some Golden Delicious apples that he intends to take to Mr. Figlia.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somebody's going to get hurt August 7, 2005
Included on the special features for THIEVES' HIGHWAY is a short - 5 minutes or so - excerpt from a proposed documentary on writer A. I. Bezzerides, novelist and screenwriter. Bezzerides wrote the novel (Thieves' Market) and the script for this one, as well as the earlier novel Long Haul, which was filmed as the George Raft/Humphrey Bogart vehicle `They Drive by Night.' Both, I guess, can be called proletariat crime thrillers. THIEVES' HIGHWAY stars Richard Conte - the underrated Richard Conte - as Nick Garcos, a young man who returns home from the sea to discover that his father was crippled while hauling produce and selling it to the unscrupulous Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb.) Nick believes Figlia was directly responsible for his father's injuries, and so THIEVES' HIGHWAY is, to a great extent, an odyssey of revenge.

The documentary clip tells us Bezzerides worked as a trucker for a while, and I believe it. This one feels like it was written from the inside. Nick, along with veteran trucker Ed Prentiss (Millard Mitchell) buys a load, a first-of-the-season load, of golden delicious apples and points his truck towards San Francisco and an appointment with Figlia. Trailing them is a couple of mercenary truckers played by Jack Oakie and Joseph Pevney. In San Francisco Nick will meet the good bad-girl Rica (Valentina Cortesa,) who will play a pivotal role in the fight between Nick and Figlia.

This is Jules Dassin's last American film, and it's a beauty. There are some great shots - Rica being chased through a dark alley, a loaded truck rolling over and spilling its load over a wide-angle hillside - and more than a few outstanding performances. What sets this one apart, and above, most of its competitors is the realistic treatment it applies to the characters. Save for Figlia, who is pure evil, the people in this one grow and change and shift allegiances. Film historian Alain Silver provides a pertinent and informative commentary.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie .... August 16, 2005
How anyone could rate this movie story less than 5 stars is beyond me. The story never drags. Holds your interest all the way through. As good as "On The Waterfront" within its own story. Also the DVD has exceptional picture quality.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Underrated Noir September 26, 2005
By Kardius
I checked out this film only because it was directed by the great Jules Dassin and I was pleasantly surprised. The film is very entertaining and features some scenes that are among the best directed by Dassin. I actually enjoyed it more than the better-known They Drive By Night. Richard Conte does a serviceable job as the leading man, but the film's acting honors really go to the cast of supporting players, which includes Lee J. Cobb and Jack Oakie. I was especially moved by Valentina Cortese's performance as Rica, the prostitute. Barbara Lawrence's role as Polly, the leading man's girlfriend, is underwritten and doesn't make much sense, but in the DVD interview Dassin explains that the part was only intended to make Rica sympathetic. (As usual, Lawrence is very good, though.) He also explains the reason for the few other scenes in the film that seem inconsistent with the general tone of the film (a reprimand by a policeman and the last scene). In short, Thieves Highway is a very good noir by a great director, the DVD transfer is excellent, and the film is really worth checking out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense merchandize drama
Conte tries to get some justice for his father who had a bad accident driving fruits for dealer Cobb. Read more
Published 2 months ago by LostinGermany
5.0 out of 5 stars great movie
tells a great story of what struggle and the reality of depression era people endured - heart ache, loss, living on less and doing right by others despite their selfish gains
Published 2 months ago by David M.McClain
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Mourn,Organize
No question back in the late 1940s, and now too for that matter, the plight of the independent owner-operated trucker was tough. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Alfred Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Noir
I truly enjoyed this film. It is an excellent film even though some would say not a true film noir.
To those viewers I would encourage them to view the film a second time and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Don B. Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Dassin's Best American Feature
"Thieves' Highway" is that rarest of birds-a film like none you've seen before. One lives life consuming food without giving a second thought how it got to our table. Read more
Published 12 months ago by David Baldwin
5.0 out of 5 stars My father had a bit part in it
My father had a bit part in this movie when he had just gotten out of the navy. He died in 2000, so getting this movie was a cool experience... Read more
Published 18 months ago by W. Gervasi
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir in the Embarcadero
Every October, the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland features a film noir festival called "Noir City DC. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars Dassin's Magnificent American Noir
I really loved this movie, a terrific noir from Fox in 1949. This movie has a mid-70's level of violence that had to test the patience of the Breem office back in those days. Read more
Published on January 11, 2012 by Phillip
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad "feature"
For some inexplicable reason, Amazon has removed the rate movie feature from the main product page. One must now write a review in order to rate a movie and generate... Read more
Published on January 31, 2011 by Charles D. Fulton
4.0 out of 5 stars "Thieves' Highway (1949) ... Jules Dassin ... Criterion Collection...
The Criterion Collection presents "THIEVES' HIGHWAY" (10 October 1949) (94 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- A war-veteran-turned-truck driver attempts to... Read more
Published on December 14, 2010 by J. Lovins
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