Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal is another in his brilliant series of films noir offering breathtaking cinematography and a clutch of first-rate performances featuring a triangle love story amid a cat-and-mouse dash for freedom.
The Production: 4.5/5
Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal is another in his brilliant series of films noir offering breathtaking cinematography and a clutch of first-rate performances featuring a triangle love story amid a cat-and-mouse dash for freedom. Another tremendous union of director Mann, cinematographer John Alton, and star Dennis O’Keefe, Raw Deal is perhaps the zenith of their collaborations.
Deciding to escape from prison instead of waiting out his three-year sentence after being convicted for a crime committed by mobster Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr), Joe Sullivan (Dennis O’Keefe) is desperate to make his way to San Francisco where Rick has $50,000 for his taking the rap for him. But despite escaping prison successfully, the dragnet is out, and Joe must call on both his girl friend Pat (Claire Trevor) along with his lawyer’s aide Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt) to help him slip by various police blockades and traps set for his capture. And the sadistic Rick is playing Joe for a sucker, too, not expecting him to make it even close to him and ensuring his own safety by sending his henchmen Fantail (John Ireland) and Spider (Curt Conway) to make certain Joe doesn’t show up to collect the money.
The brilliant screenplay for Raw Deal is by Leopold Atlas and John C. Higgins who have set up moll Pat as the film’s narrator who keeps us apprised of her own, Joe’s, and Ann’s character transformations that occur as the result of their experiences during the movie. Yes, the green-eyed monster infuses itself within Pat as she watches Joe and Ann grow closer, but it’s handled so astutely that our intelligence is never insulted, and our allegiances are always variable with the three main characters. This is one of the rare noirs where the two women vying for the protagonist’s affections are both painted in shades of gray (as is Joe) even though each starts out clearly as either good (Ann) or bad (Pat), and one is never quite sure in what direction the narrative may take us with these three very complex people. Director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton have once again bathed their film in inky darkness with pools of light accentuating the action, and a major fight sequence filmed through fish netting as Joe wrestles with two men out to kill him while Ann must summon up her moral fortitude to integrate herself into the action is one of the true highlights to be found in all of noir. The movie’s title is no accident either as the on-screen action is sometimes quite raw (as when the fire-happy sadist Rick tosses flaming cherries jubilee into his fawning moll’s (Chill Williams) face or Rick’s ultimate end is ironically fitting for someone who enjoys burning others), and characters meet their expected ends but in somewhat unexpected ways.
Having already redefined his career toward rougher more conflicted characters with the very successful T-Men the year before, Dennis O’Keefe once again proves to be an appealing tough guy, and his Joe Sullivan shows us a multi-faceted man with a softer inside than one might expect from a noir leading man (the mercy he shows a fleeing man midway through the film and his decision not to kill the men who attacked him once he had them helpless). Claire Trevor seems hard as nails through much of the movie, but she makes sacrifices late in the film once she realizes Joe’s feelings and offers more kindness than we’d ever have expected from her. Marsha Hunt’s Ann’s is the weakest drawn of the three main characters, and her true feelings finally dawning on her seems a little more abrupt than they might otherwise have been, but she eventually becomes a character we cheer for. Raymond Burr once again etches the portrait of a mobster outwardly tough but inwardly a coward making for a memorable villain (it helps than Mann and Alton often shoot him from below accentuating his looming evil). John Ireland and Curt Conway are effective cocky henchmen.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. As with the other Classic Flix restorations, the image quality is immaculate with nary a scratch or dust speck to jar the mood of this noir. Sharpness is excellent except in shots where it’s meant to be diffused, and the grayscale is achingly rich with the darkest blacks and whites that are clean and appealing. Contrast is marvelously applied for a first-rate picture. The movie has been divided into 22 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical of its era, and the restorers have also made sure that no age-related problems with hiss, crackle, or flutter mar the listening experience. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and combined with the Theremin-heavy Paul Sawtell background score and appropriate atmospheric sound effects to serve up a most effective aural experience.
Special Features: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: film historian Jeremy Arnold offers a superb audio commentary explaining information on the film’s three-week production schedule and offering capsule filmographies of not only the film’s leading players but many of the character actors who make brief appearances as well (Regis Toomey, Whit Bissell, among others) as well as several of the movie’s production team.
Deadly is the Male: The Making of Raw Deal (9:06, HD): film historians Alan K. Rode, Julie Kirgo, and Courtney Joyner explain memorable facets to the movie’s growing reputation as a classic film noir.
Dennis O’Keefe: An Extraordinary Ordinary Guy (5:39, HD): Dennis O’Keefe’s son Jim as well as historians Alan Rode and Courtney Joyner offers biographical information on the life and career of the actor.
Art Gallery: twenty-eight stills, lobby cards, and posters are collected in a step-through gallery.
Restoration Comparisons (5:30, HD): split screens allow us to see the tremendous amount of work done (400 hours) to remove all kinds of age-related artifacts from the existing materials to wind up with the pristine transfer offered on the disc.
Promo Trailers (HD): T-Men, He Walked by Night, Tomorrow Is Forever, You Only Live Once restoration comparison, Film Noir compilation trailer.
Twenty-Four Page Booklet: contains stills, posters, and film historian Max Alvarez’s entertaining and informative essay on the film.
Highly Recommended! Raw Deal is another smashing film noir brought to home video in pristine audio and video condition by the folks at Classic Flix.
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