Burt Lancaster is finally paroled from prison after 14 hard years, and he’s eager to renew his acquaintance with ex-bootlegging partner Kirk Douglas, who promised him half of the business when he’s sprung. Well, he gets the business, alrighty; with the help of crooked bookkeeper Wendell Corey, Kirkie has his ritzy holdings all tied up in legalities (“Some’ll rob you with a six-gun, some’ll do it with a fountain pen” – Woody Guthrie) that even Burt’s tough-guy buddies can’t untangle. About all Lancaster gets is a share of Kirk’s girlfriend/club singer Lizabeth Scott.
Based on a play and so it’s stagebound and talky, but its great cast certainly keeps the audience attention level high. I couldn’t help but think that made ten years earlier with Cagney as Burt Lancaster and Bogart as Kirk Douglas, this would’ve been one of the great ones. Director Byron Haskin (making is directorial debut) has a full roster of wonderful supporting players to trot out, including noir staples Marc Lawrence and Mike Mazurki, plus Mickey Knox and Kristine Miller.
Miss Miller, after she’s warned that Kirkie – the guy she’s about to marry – is carrying on with the club’s singer: “Every man has a girl who sings someplace in his life.”
It’s a beautiful print and transfer on the new Kino Lorber Blu-ray; extras include commentary by Troy Howarth and a handful of trailers for other Lancaster films.
Not a great noir, but oh that cast, and the sequence where Lancaster learns he’s been had is one of noir’s greatest scenes ever. Recommended.