Friday, June 17, 2016

Criss Cross

Late last summer I had the opportunity to DVR Criss Cross. It's coming up again on the TCM schedule tomorrow morning at 6:45 AM. If you haven't had the chance to see it, I can strongly recommend it.

Burt Lancaster stars as Steve Thompson. He's an armored-car driver who grew up in one of the blue-collar parts of Los Angeles and whose family still lives there. However, he made the mistake of marrying Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), who was much too fast for him. The marriage, predictably, didn't work out, a lot like the marriage between the younger Derrys (Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo) in The Best Years of Our Lives, only without the World War II thing. That having been said, Steve still has a thing for Anna even though they're divorced. He's been wandering around the country for some time following the divorce, but came back to Los Angeles in part to get back in touch with Anna.

Anna is an attraction at one of the local nightclubs, and sured enough, Steve finds her there. There's a mutual physical attraction, although whether they could ever get back together in an ideal world is a good question. This being the world of noir and not an ideal world, the answer is obviously no, they won't get back together. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that Anna has remarried to oh-so-wonderful Slim (Dan Duryea). Slim finds the former married couple passionately kissing, and unsurprisingly, he isn't very happy about it, so he's going to beat the crap out of Steve if he can get the chance.

Steve is bright enough to think on his feet, but not bright enough to come up with a good idea. Steve tells Slim that he was meeting with Anna not so much to meet with her, but because he knew that way he'd be able to find Slim. That's because he's got a proposition for Slim: Slim's gang can rob the armored-car company, with Steve being the inside guy who lets them in on the routine and where and how would be the best way to commit the robbery. Never mind the fact that there's a Production Code; you'd have to be daft to think this is a good idea. But I suppose Steve was thinking that at least he could put off the beating. Because he's got an even dafter idea. He's going to take his share of the loot, and run off with Anna. Or at least, that's his idea.

So we get to the appointed time for the armored car robbery. Some heist movies see the heist itself go wrong; others see things go south only during the aftermath. In the case of Criss Cross, it's the former. Steve didn't want his co-driver to get shot by Slim, but Slim doesn't care, killing the guy while the guy shoots back. The result of all this is that Slim and his gang get away with the money; Anna is in hiding; and Steve is in the hospital where everybody thinks he's a hero. Except for the police detective Ramirez (Stephen McNally), who thinks Steve was in on the robbery. Slim and his men want to get at Steven, while Steven just wants to get at Anna....

Criss Cross is a well-made movie, with excellent noir photography and a pretty good plot to boot, even it many of the plot points will seem familiar to people who have seen a lot of noir. Dan Duryea is his typically good bad-guy; Yvonne De Carlo smoulders as the femme fatale; and Burt Lancaster is good as the idiot who should have known better. Watch also for De Carlo dancing at the nightclub about 20 minutes into the movie. Her dance partner is a very young, uncredited Tony Curtis.

If you haven't seen much noir, Criss Cross wouldn't be a bad place to start. It has been released to DVD, and seems to be in stock at Amazon, although the TCM Shop seems to have it listed on back order.

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