In NYC, thief turned cop killer- Martin Rome (Richard Conte)- arrives in the hospital badly wounded. A slimy lawyer, W.A. Niles (Berry Kroeger), tries to convince him to confess to another crime- a jewelry heist and killing the shop owner. Marty’s young girlfriend, Teena Riconti (Debra Paget), secretly visits him while he’s asleep. Later, Niles threatens Marty by saying he’ll find Teena and force her to confess in aiding w/ the robbery (as its known a woman was involved). When Marty is moved from the hospital to the jail, he escapes. Lt. Candella (Victor Mature) and Lt. Collins (Fred Clark) are on his trail. This case is personal for Candella (who is also Italian-American), knows the Rome family, and grew up in the same poor/immigrant neighborhood as Marty.
I had enough of that when I’m a kid. Crummy tenements, no food, no clothes. -Marty explains why he chose a life of crime
Oh, save it for the jury, Marty. Who do you think you’re kidding? l was brought up in the district too. I’ve heard that dialogue from you poolroom hotshots ever since l was ten years old. Get hip… only suckers work… don’t be a square… stay with the smart money. Let the old man get the calluses digging the ditches. No food… no clothes… crummy tenements. You’re breaking my heart, Marty. -Lt. Candella replies
You shouldn’t miss this gem of a film noir from director Robert Siodmak! I had tears in my eyes at the end; it’s captivating from its start to the (powerful) finish. Not only is it very well-made, it has a moral message (which is not dealt w/ in a pedantic manner). The characters (many of whom are European immigrants and first generation Americans) are fleshed out nicely, even the minor players. Veteran film noir-writer Ben Hecht worked on the script, though he is uncredited; this is a common practice in Hollywood even today. Quentin Tarantino is known for punching-up dialogue on several movies from different genres.
Victor Mature is surprisingly competent in the lead in what must be surely one of his best roles. Richard Conte is simply superb in a complex and tricky role. His method is one of economy and subtlety and a lesson to screen actors.
-Excerpt from IMDB review
I’ve haven’t seen Mature before; he’s 6′ 2″ and muscular w/ a striking profile, dark hair, and thick eyebrows. To modern audiences, he resembles Law and Order and SATC actor Chris Noth. Candella is usually on the move; he is a man who commands attention w/ his body and voice. In contrast, Conte (star of the lesser-known noir Thieves’ Highway) is much shorter w/ a slighter build. He is also handsome and has a strong screen presence. Marty is often confined, wounded by cops’ bullets, though his mind and eyes are always moving. There are many fine supporting characters (few who also speak in Italian), adding to the strength of the film. Classic film fans will notice a young Shelly Winters, one of the many ladies Marty has charmed.
Siodmak was a master of noir, as he blended German Expressionism w/ contemporary styles found in American film. He created atmospheric and memorable movies, perhaps most notably The Killers (1946), starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. Though born in Memphis, Tennessee to Jewish parents who were visiting on business, Siodmak spent his youth in Germany, and even worked in banking (his father’s business) for a time. He also tried his hand at acting, which didn’t work out. When Hitler came to power, he joined his friend- Billy Wilder- in Paris and worked on editing and filming. In 1940, Siodmak was on the last ship leaving France for America on the eve of Germany’s occupation of Paris. His experience in France enabled him to create quality films which looked good on a low budget.