CRISS CROSS (director: Robert Siodmak; screenwriters: from the novel by Don Tracy/Daniel Fuchs; cinematographer: Frank Planer; editor: Ted J. Kent; music: Miklós Rózsa; cast: Burt Lancaster (Steve Thompson/Narrator), Yvonne De Carlo (Anna Dundee), Dan Duryea (Slim Dundee), Percy Helton (Frank, The Bartender), Stephen McNally (Det. Lt. Pete Ramirez), Tom Pedi (Vincent), Edna Holland (Mrs. Thompson), Griff Barnett (Pop); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michel Kraike; Universal-International; 1949)
“Cynical film noir of obsessive love and betrayal.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Siodmak (“Phantom Lady”/”The Killers”) directs this cynical film noir of obsessive love and betrayal. It’s 1940s film noir at its most influential as far as style goes, that is further enhanced by the beautiful dark photography of Frank Planer, the tight script by Daniel Fuchs, and the taut pacing by Siodmak. It’s based on a story by Don Tracy.
Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) returns home to LA after eight months of bumming around the country to try and forget his divorce to sexy Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), someone he still can’t get out of his head. Steve gets back his job as an armored car payroll guard. He can’t resist tracking Anna down again in the nightclub they frequented. They hook up again, but Steve’s mother considers Anna poison and his childhood detective friend, Lt. Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally), warns her to stay away from Steve or he’ll frame her and throw her in the clink. Anna surprises Steve by taking off one night and eloping with wealthy gambler gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea).
Anna still is physically attracted to Steve and they carry on an affair while Slim is occupied with his gangster affairs. One day Slim catches them together in his house and Steve ad libs that he came over because he needs Slim’s help in robbing his armored car company. Steve is not interested in the money, but realizes he can only win Anna back by securing a large bankroll. Anna encourages Steve to go ahead with the robbery as the only way he’ll get her back. The plan is to double-cross the dangerous Slim, and then flee town together.
Lancaster plays the fall guy, just like he did in The Killers. This marvelously worked out raunchy film dwells on the inner workings of the love triangle and the unreliability of the criminal types in keeping their word. It leads to the explosive heist, many betrayals, and the fatalist ending it was pointing to from the moment the Lancaster character revealed his fatal obsession for the woman he can’t let go of even if warned by those close to him that she’s no good.
Siodmak keeps the suspense at a feverish pitch, and the characterizations are well drawn out. Criss Cross is one of the great examples of 1940s film noir at its most tragic. A must see film for fans of the genre.
It was remade as The Underneath (1995) by director Steven Soderbergh, though somewhat interesting it never achieved the success of the original.
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2004 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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