GUNMAN IN THE STREETS (Le Traque) (director: Frank Tuttle; screenwriters: Jacques Companéez/Maximilien Ilyin; cinematographer: Eugen Schüfftan; editor: Steve Previn; music: Joe Hajos; cast: Dane Clark (Eddy Roback), Simone Signoret (Denise Vernon), Fernand Gravet (Commissioner Dufresne), Robert Duke (Frank Clinton); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Victor Pahlen; All Day Entertainment; 1950-France-in English)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This gripping film noir was sharply directed by Frank Tuttle (“This Gun for Hire”). It features two superb performances from a scowling Dane Clark and a sexy kittenish purring Simone Signoret. Despite the not likability factor of the lead characters, especially the sociopathic Dane Clark character, the man-on-the-run crime thriller sizzles and holds our interest as the tension builds.
Eddy Roback (Dane Clark) is a tough guy American army deserter turned gangster living in Paris, who after a 10-month wait in jail is going to trial on black marketing and armed robbery charges. But on his way to court his gang attacks the police van he’s in and in a pitched gun battle–where he’s wounded and several police are killed–he manages to escape from the crime scene and then cleverly eludes the police in a department store. After seeing his confederates arrested in a raid by the police, he’s left alone and stuck without money while trying to avoid the massive manhunt throughout Paris as he must reach the rest of his gang in Belgium in time or else they will abandon him. Eddy contacts his ex-girlfriend Denise Vernon (Simone Signoret) for help in securing 300,000 francs he needs for his final escape plans. Denise is questioned in her apartment by Commissioner Dufresne (Fernand Gravet), and a tail is put on her when she offers no help. She dines at a restaurant with her current boyfriend Frank Clinton (Robert Duke), who is an American correspondent. Frank wrote a best-selling biography on Eddy Roback, and has fallen madly in love with Denise. Noticing the tail, she uses her street smarts to ditch them and meets Eddy in their old rendezvous spot.
Denise rides in a taxi with Eddy to meet his old acquaintances, but no one is willing to help; so Denise hides him in the apartment of a sleazy magazine photographer, the snitch Max Salva, who put Eddy behind bars. Eddy forces the perverted Max to remove the bullet from his arm wound, while Denise soon secures the money from the love sick Frank. The three travel together at night to Belgium in Frank’s car–avoiding roadblocks and battling a heavy fog. Eddy bullies both Frank and Denise into doing things his way, but Denise decides to stay with Eddy, anyway, when they reach Belgium despite Frank urging her to stay with him. Eddy and Denise are both fatalists, believing no one can change their destiny. With all the characters in place, the police close in on Eddy and there’s a violent final shootout confrontation.
The film is excellent in establishing a chilling atmosphere by its location shots of a dark Paris in the postwar period. It’s fast-paced and goes down with ease like a smooth brandy. The bloody action scenes make it seem quite at home as an American type of film, one that can hold its own with Cagney’s White Heat. It has been a long lost film that only reached American shores in 2001, and it’s good for film noir fans that it has been found and is now on DVD.
REVIEWED ON 4/14/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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