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HOODLUM, THE (director: Max Nosseck; screenwriters: Sam Neuman/Nat Tanchuck; cinematographer: Clark Ramsey; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Darrell Calker; cast: Lawrence Tierney (Vincent Lubeck), Allene Roberts (Rosa), Marjorie Riordan (Eileen), Lisa Golm (Mrs. Lubeck), Edward Tierney (Johnny Lubeck); Runtime: 61; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Maurice Kasloff; United Artists; 1951)
“The cheaply made film tells an old story and adds nothing fresh, but it was presented with force.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Hoodlum is a gangster film which passes for film noir because of the protagonist’s dark nature, lack of loyalty and violent anti-social behavior. Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney) after graduating from being a juvenile delinquent to a small-time adult criminal–serving a five-year prison term for armed robbery–is granted parole into the custody of his sweet mother, Mrs. Lubeck’s (Lisa Golm), only because she begs the reluctant parole board for his release. The ungrateful Vincent works as an attendant/mechanic in his brother Johnny’s gas station (Edward Tierney, Lawrence real-life younger brother; his other sibling Scott Brady is unfortunately not here when we need him), where he’s hired only as a favor to mom. One of the gas station customers is Eileen, who works across the street as a secretary in the bank. While Vincent dates her to get the whole picture on how the armored car schedule works, he makes contact with former ex-cons in his prison to form a gang to rob the bank. On a whim, Vincent seduces shy girl Rosa (Allene Roberts), his brother’s longtime sweetheart. When Rosa’s a few months pregnant by Vincent, she asks him to marry her without mentioning her condition. But Vincent curtly tells her to go back to his brother. Feeling isolated and ashamed, Rosa commits suicide by jumping off the roof. The police tell a dejected Mrs. Lubeck that in the autopsy they discovered Rosa was pregnant, and she immediately knows which of her sons impregnated her.

During the robbery, Johnny shows up unexpectedly at the gas station and tries to call the police. But Vincent knocks him unconscious. The robbery turns violent as two guards and two of the gang are killed, but Vincent escapes with five others by hiding in a fake funeral procession. But the gang has a falling out over how to split the dough, and jump Vincent escaping with the money. Soon all five are either killed or arrested, leaving Vincent on-the-run as the police blockade the city. The desperate criminal visits the bank secretary and when not made welcome, tells her unless she hides him he’ll tell the police she was the heist’s insider. The secretary pulls a gun from her purse and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t scram. Vincent then turns to his dying mother for help, but she calls him a good-for-nothing hoodlum who caused the death of his father and Rosa. After mom’s bitter tirade about her mistake in getting him a parole, she dies. Johnny then comes into the room, and at gunpoint takes him to the city dump to kill him. When he can’t go through with his threat, the cops arrive and Vincent dies strewn out on the garbage pile he, ironically, always complained about because of its smell.

The cheaply made film tells an old story and adds nothing fresh, but it was presented with force. Aside from Lawrence Tierney’ finely tuned menacing performance, the acting was sub par. It was Tierney’s performance that kept the film alive in the tradition of the old-fashioned gangsters like those portrayed by Cagney and Robinson.

A minor film that achieves its limited aim of showing, in a manner of speaking, that a leopard never changes its spots.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”