Sunday, April 22, 2018
Act of Violence (1948)
We do have a few clues. Enley is a World War 2 vet and he was an officer. Given that the movie was made in 1948 it’s reasonable to surmise that the limping man served under Enley during the war and has a grudge against him, and he believes it’s a big enough grudge to be worth killing for.
Enley is seriously spooked so we can further surmise that he’s convinced the limping man really does intend to kill him.
I’m being deliberately very vague about the plot because one of the things I like about this movie is that the two protagonists are introduced at the start and we draw certain conclusions about their respective characters. And then we find out things that force us to totally rethink how we feel about these two men. My feeling is that the less you know about the plot going into the film the more effectively this technique works.
Robert Ryan was of course always the perfect choice if you wanted an actor to play someone who was psychologically tortured, damaged and dangerous. In this film he exudes menace right from the start and there’s a frightening implacability about his stalking of Elney.
Van Heflin was also pretty good at playing troubled characters and Frank Elney most definitely qualifies as troubled. And tortured. And damaged.
I’ve never had a particularly high opinion of Fred Zinnemann’s work although I was very impressed by The Day of the Jackal. After seeing Act of Violence I’m inclined to think that Zinnemann was at his best doing dark moody suspense pictures. This movie starts out tense and that tension never lets up.
Cinematographer Robert Surtees provides the necessary noir visual style.
Act of Violence was released as part of the Warner Home Video Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 and as a made-on-demand DVD in the Warner Archive series. I caught this movie on TCM so I can’t comment on the quality of the DVD releases.
Act of Violence is an emotional roller-coaster ride and it’s a full-blooded excursion into the noir depths. Very highly recommended.