Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rogue Cop

From Noir of The Week:

"Rogue Cop is one the best film noirs of the 1950s, standing alongside such classics as The Big Heat (1953) and The Big Combo (1955). The film is dark and the atmosphere tense and gritty. The tone of the movie is set from its opening moments, as the credits are stamped against the backdrop of police activity in the city, sans musical accompaniment. The storyline effectively highlights the standard plot of a flawed “hero” changing sides and going up against a particularly ruthless antagonist – the character motivated less by the need for redemption than revenge. Sadistic villains were almost a staple in noir cinema: from Tommy Udo to Vince Stone to “Mr. Brown”. Until participating in the noirish shootout that ends the film, Raft’s Dan Beaumonte is never explicit in his evil actions; however, the scene in which he dispatches Nancy to his “friends” in punishment for her taunting him is chilling in what it suggests.

"Rogue Cop was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (John F. Seitz) and received high marks from the critics. The New York Herald-Tribune rated the picture “a simple, streamlined movie about crookedness.” This was a unique compliment indeed during the message-laden reign of MGM studio boss Dore Schary."

I watched Rogue Cop awhile back on TCM and afterward I started re-reading William P. McGivern. If, as has been said, Jim Thompson was the dime-store Dostoyevsky, I suppose McGivern was the dime-store Graham Greene. The same tightly wound stories of evil and guilt and the search for redemption. Very Catholic themes and obsessions.

Odds Against Tomorrow is McGivern at his very best. One of the finest crime novels I've ever read. And Robert Wise translated it perfectly to the screen. The Big Heat (which made another fine movie) is another McGivern that should be back in print. I also like his early hardboiled whodunits, very much of their time which oddly enough gives them a real freshness and vitality today. Heaven Ran Last opens with the narrator cuckholding his war buddy--nasty stuff. Blondes Die Young (as by Bill Peters) is rife with marijuana and sex, demonstrating how the boys back from WW11 were changing mystery fiction.

Most of his work was that of a solid and clever pro. But at least a share of it deserves to be back in print. You can find all his work on Abe for cheap.


Anonymous said...

Ed, let's both tell Charles Ardai that McGivern should be back inprint.


Anonymous said...

I read Rogue Cop a while back and liked it. I haven't seen the movie yet but I'll give it a look. McGivern wrote mean prose. Thanks for the post, Ed.

Ed Lynskey