Considering its fearless backhanding of racial prejudice in modern society at the time, its cultural wave-making is no surprise. Prominently putting a spotlight on anti-Semitism and overtly expressing the needlessness, the ugliness, of hatred, it grabs ahold of us both intellectually and emotionally, a rarity for a 1940s that preferred movies without much on the mind (and without much by way of dealing with racism on a silver screen scale).
It was one of two anti anti-Semitism centered movies released that year, the other being Elia Kazan's "Gentlemen's Agreement," which garnered more critical and commercial attention and is widely said to be the superior. But "Crossfire," visually claustrophobic and temperamental, is stimulating nonetheless, even if its dialogue sometimes tends to mimic soapbox heat and even if some of the characters are more mouthpieces for screenwriter John Paxton than they are multifaceted creations.
The film concerns itself with the brutal murder of Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), a Jewish man last seen hanging around a group of discharged soldiers. Suspicious of the circumstances regarding his demise - he's certain that turned heads and white lies are coating the actual truth - police investigator Finlay (Robert Young) embarks on an intense search for the culprit. As does Sergeant Keeley (Robert Mitchum), the protective friend of a possible suspect (George Cooper). But while they differ in their investigative methods, Finlay and Keeley find themselves increasingly distrustful of Montgomery (a terrifying Robert Ryan), a tyrannical bigot that was with Samuels in the hours leading up to his death.
"Crossfire" mostly fills the mold of an archetypal whodunit, spending a plentiful amount of time staging flashbacks (as a way to three-dimensionalize the stories told in interrogations) and occupying the scenery with skeptical persons of interest (most memorably with potential witness Ginny, who's exceptionally portrayed by Gloria Grahame). It's analogous to the mystery novels of Agatha Christie, only the characters are less eloquent, the investigator isn't an eccentric cartoon, and the murderer is fairly obvious. (And it's more pivoted toward its moral lesson; its enigmas are generally unimportant.)
But I admire its determination to make a statement, which is, fortunately, constructed efficaciously. It's dated, mostly since the topic at hand is not as rampant as it was sixty years, but its anger holds up. And, most interestingly, we feel cohesively transported into 1947, where post-war cynicism, where intolerance, and where the hysterical - and ridiculous - Communist witch-hunt were widespread normalities of society. That sensation is perhaps more engaging than the film itself (which is still pretty damn good).
A detective is sent in to investigate a murder in a bar. As he interviews the witnesses, it becomes very apparent a group of soldiers are responsible, but why did they do it, what led them to these acts, and was the violence justified?
"Could he have hit his head on the table?"
"With the beating he took, it wouldn't have made a difference one way or the other."
Edward Dmytryk, director of The Young Lions, The Cain Mutiny, He Is My Brother, Bluebeard, Till the End of Time, Mutiny, Secrets of the Lone World, and Behind the Rising Sun, delivers Crossfire. The storyline for this picture is fairly straightforward with some interesting characters and sub plots. The acting is excellent and the cast includes Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, and Tom Keene.
"Soldiers don't have anywhere to go unless you tell them where to go."
I came across this on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and decided to give it a viewing. This was just okay but I enjoyed Mitchum in this film and the way the story of the soldiers unfold. Overall, this is only worth seeing once if you're a fan of classic films.
"He doesn't respect the service he doesn't respect his mother..."
It centers around the murder investigation of an uncharacterized Jewish man, and immediately squanders nearly two thirds of its duration on a story that leads absolutely nowhere and is arbitrarily dropped the minute one of the main protagonists leaps to a wild conclusion about the true motive of the murder he is investigating, a motive so simple that it requires a villain with a great deal of established psychological complexity in order to remain convincing. Unfortunately though, instead of attempting a compelling character study on the kind of deranged prejudice that can lead an ignorant bigot into senseless violence and murder, Crossfire decides to wrap things up by simply stating "Hating Jews is bad," then closing with one of the most unsatisfying and anti-climactic endings I have experienced in years.
When a Jewish man is found murdered in his home detective Finlay must get to the bottom of a mystery which has a rather unsavoury racial centre.
The suspicion is cast over a group of soldiers who visited the mans flat before he was killed.
One Soldier Mitch is too hung-over to remember what occurred and is the obvious number one suspect.
However Robert Mitchums sergeant feels Mitch is not the main culprit and that the police should be looking at Robert Ryan's bigoted Montgomery.
The film should be applauded for handling a tricky subject and director Edward Dmytryk keeps you guessing until the very end with one or two red herrings along the way.
Robert Young is excellent as the dogged detective and of course Robert Mitchum puts in another top grade performance.
A film noir with as powerful message today as it was in 1947