Crime Wave (1954)

Crime Wave (1954)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Crime Wave Photos

Movie Info

A car with two men visible in it pulls up to a Los Angeles service station at night, with a single attendant (Dub Taylor) working. As he starts to pump the gas, he doesn't see the third man come around the side until it's too late and he's knocked cold. The trio carries out their robbery but before they can finish, a motorcycle cop rolls up. A gun battle ensues, and one of the robbers is shot, as is the police officer. Now a manhunt is on for the trio, all escapees from San Quentin who were making their way south; the other two give the wounded man enough money to get to the apartment of a former cellmate of one of them, Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson). But Lacey is genuinely trying to go straight and live a clean, honest life with his wife, Ellen (Phyllis Kirk), and wants nothing to do with anyone he knew in prison, or with harboring an escaped prisoner. He's even more unhappy when Dr. Otto Hessler (Jay Novello), another ex-con and a veterinarian, arrives to treat the gunshot victim. But when the hood dies, matters get even more complicated -- Lacey's life becomes a nightmare as the police arrive, led by the hardboiled Det. Sgt. Sims (Sterling Hayden), who doesn't believe that any hood ever goes straight. Sims doesn't believe that Lacey's claim of knowing nothing of the escapees, and is ready to send him back to prison on a parole violation -- even though his parole officer (James Bell) believes him -- when he won't cooperate. And worse still, the other two escapees, Doc Penny (Ted de Corsia) and Ben Hastings (Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson), force their way into Lacey's home, insisting on hiding out there and threatening Ellen. And as they're now a man short, they want Steve's help on a major heist they're planning -- and will kill Ellen if he doesn't cooperate. Soon Lacey is up to his neck in a daylight bank robbery, timed to the minute, and his wife is at the mercy of a mentally deficient, sexually deviant confederate (Timothy Carey), while the police still seem to be following every trail but the right one. Steve realizes that he is the only one who is going to be able to save himself or his wife from this nightmare, and isn't convinced that he'll get out of it alive -- but by then, between being put on him by Sims and his unwanted companions, he's prepared to die in order to save Ellen.
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In Theaters:
Warner Bros.

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Sterling Hayden
as Det. Lt. Sims
Gene Nelson
as Steve Lacey
Phyllis Kirk
as Ellen Lacey
Ted de Corsia
as 'Doc' Penny
Charles Bronson
as Ben Hastings
Jay Novello
as Dr. Otto Hessler
James Bell
as Daniel O'Keefe
Dub Taylor
as Gus Snider
Gayle Kellogg
as Detective Kelly
Timothy Carey
as Johnny
Sandy Sanders
as Officer
Harry Lauter
as Officer
Dennis Dengate
as Officer
Joe Bassett
as Officer
Fred Coby
as Officer
L. Diane Fortier
as Police Announcer
Jim Hayward
as Zenner
Mary Alan Hokanson
as Police Announcer
Ruth Lee
as Police Announcer
Eileen Elliott
as Police Announcer
Charles Cane
as Detective
Don Gibson
as Detective
Bert Moorhouse
as Detective
Jack Kenney
as Detective
Harry Wilson
as Parolee
Jack Woody
as Stoolie
Hank Worden
as Sweeney
Ted Ryan
as Janitor
Ned Young
as Gat Morgan
Iris Adrian
as Hasting's Girl Friend
Mary Newton
as Mrs. O'Keefe
Faith Kruger
as Salvation Army Singer
Tom Clarke Hill
as Salvation Army Singer
Guy Wilkerson
as Hoodlum
Lyle Latell
as Hoodlum
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Critic Reviews for Crime Wave

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (2)

By shuffling some standard ingredients with quiet competence, "Crime Wave," the new Warners film on the Holiday's screen, manages to look a good deal better than it is.

Full Review… | August 7, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Andre de Toth's 1954 noir is gritty, powerful, and economically told.

Full Review… | May 6, 2003
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The title tells it all in this low-budget film.

Full Review… | October 25, 2015
TV Guide

The sense of human vulnerability against hard architecture suggests Lang on a shoestring, but the bleak humanism is all De Toth's

Full Review… | August 25, 2009

Visually brilliant film noir.

Full Review… | August 8, 2008
Classic Film and Television

A nasty little masterpiece.

Full Review… | August 9, 2007
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Crime Wave


oft told tale but sharp as a razor here with sterling hayden, an actor of more presence than skill, giving maybe his best performance. rumor has it the film was made in two weeks and it's remarkably done, from the opening heist to the tune of doris day's 's'wonderful' to the last crumpled cigarette

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


Unexceptional noir. Hayden is nothing if not consistent, consistently bad that is.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

Great film noir!

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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