Robert Siodmak (director)
88 min (length)
22 June 2020 (released)
16 June 2020
All the classic film noir ingredients come to full force in Robert Siodmak’s CRISS CROSS (1949) in which Burt Lancaster can’t forget his ex-wife… and pays the ultimate price for it!
Steve Thompson (B. Lancaster) is a romantic who simply can’t forget about his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo) even though their marriage lasted only seven months. Drifting from place to place performing odd jobs, Steve finally returns home to Los Angeles and moves back with his parents and his younger brother Slade (Richard Long). He takes up his previous job as a driver for the Horten’s Armoured Car Service – a company where his father (Griff Barnett) also happens to work. However, Steve’s mother (Edna Holland) knows the real reason why her son has returned to LA is his hope to re-unite with his former wife, although all her motherly instincts tell her that Anna spells nothing but trouble…
In the film’s opening scene we see Steve and Anna secretly embrace in the car park of the Round Up Bar, his old watering hole. Anna then returns to the bar only to be scrutinized by her new husband – gangster and general hoodlum Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea). In gradual flashback sequences we then see the events leading up to a scene during which Steve and his dad are driving a company truck (containing a payroll shipment) to another company. What happens in between that fateful drive and Steve’s secret meeting with Anna in the car park is told in yet another loosely connected flashback sequences. While Steve, hopeless romantic that he is, becomes more and more obsessed with his ex-wife and the idea to reunite with her it soon transpires that Dundee watches over her (and his) every move like a watchdog from hell. Even Steve’s close friend, Detective Lt. Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally) can read the warning signs on the horizon and warns his chum to keep away from both Anna and Dundee. Does Steve listen? Course not!
Realising that fickle Anna is not only scared of her abusive husband but doesn’t altogether object to the idea of giving their collapsed marriage another chance, Steve plans a heist of the armoured truck together with Dundee and his men, though in reality it’s only a ruse because Steve wants to scarper with the stolen payroll money in order to start a new life with Anna. Which brings us back to the scene in which Steve and his dad are driving said armoured truck to a company compound. Is he really mad enough to endanger his old man? Obviously Steve thinks that his plan is fool-proof but it wouldn’t be a film noir if things fared smoothly… During the botched raid Steve’s dad gets killed by Dundee, in response Steve starts shooting and is wounded by the gangsters who escape. Initially assuming that he foiled the raid, Steve – lying in hospital recovering from his injuries – is hailed a hero who thwarted the robbery. Only his friend Detective Ramirez knows that Steve is behind it all because this kind of robbery would require an inside man… Despite Ramirez’ suspicions Steve admits to nothing. Meanwhile Dundee is dispatching one of his henchmen to the hospital in order to bring Steve to him, for only he knows where some of the stolen loot is. But Steve manages to bribe the man who instead takes him to Anna’s hideout. When she realises just how badly wounded her lover is, she changes her mind and plans on taking off with a suitcase full of stolen money as planned, albeit without him. Talk about a criss-cross! As Steve begs her not to leave him Dundee, who had a feeling that Steve would bribe his henchman in taking him to Anna, suddenly appears in the doorway… pulling his trigger… though he isn’t triumphant for long as in the background police sirens can be heard.
CRISS CROSS – based on the 1934 novel by Don Tracy - is a typical example of a man whose fate is sealed from the outset thanks to a femme fatale (every film noir worth its salt has one) he can’t let go. That said, there’s a fair bit of loose ends here, for example would a principally good-hearted guy such as Steve really plan a raid on the truck on a day when his father is with him, guarding the payroll money? And is he really so naïve that he cannot see just how fickle and unpredictable Anna is and that he will burn his fingers all over again? Btw there’s a scene early on in the film during which Yvonne DeCarlo (it almost feels strange to see her without her Lily Munster outfit) dances with a very young Tony Curtis in the nightclub – it was Curtis’ film ‘debut’ – blink and you’ll miss him.
Newly restored in 4K, this b/w thriller is available on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Among the Bonus Features we get various audio options, audio commentary, video piece, original theatrical trailer and Collector’s Booklet.