Saturday, March 15, 2014

***Out In The 1940s Film Noir Night- T For Trouble- T For Treasury Man-Anthony Mann’s T-Men- A Film Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

T-Men, starring Dennis O’Keefe, directed by Anthony Mann, Eagle Lion Productions, 1947

No question, at least in my mind, the police procedural noirs from the 1940s and 1950s are the weakest form of the genre. Especially when, like the film under review, Anthony Mann’s T-Men they are essentially a propaganda documentary for some governmental agency. Here the Treasury Department’s counterfeiting squad gets the shining glowing light treatment. The main problem with this sub-genre is that unlike a femme fatale-driven noir where we hope the femme does not rough up the guys too badly or a private detective entry where we wish the tough gumshoe success for his client we know from the beginning that the bad guys, here a nation-wide syndicate passing bad dough and bad liquor stamps, is doomed to fail.

A run through of the plot-line here tells the tale. Seems Uncle Sam (that’s us) is miffed that post-World War II bad guy gangs are passing bad paper and nicking the government (that’s you and me, okay) of its liquor revenues, nicking it big time. Naturally this thumb in the eye has all the top Washington Treasury bureaucrats (that’s not you and me but our public servants) screaming bloody murder. So naturally to figure out how the nation-wide operation was succeeding and putting a stop to it there had to be a sting operation. A sting operation which includes two T-men , two keen agents, including the key agent (played by Dennis O’Keefe) working their way into the operation to see who Mister Big is and to grab him and put him away for about 99 years, or life anyway.

So the two agents dot the i’s and cross the t’s by working their way up in the organization starting in poor benighted Detroit and crossing the country to sunnyland LA. Their work gets them so far but the organization did not get to the organization by being saps for undercover cops and they get a little hip to the fact that one of the agents does not seen to be on the square. And so they in time-honored tradition waste the agent which our boy Dennis O’Keefe watched in horror. But that is really the end of the drama because as every film noir aficionado knows, knows 101, once a cop, a good guy, get wasted by bad guys or femmes then the old adage about “crime does not pay” comes home with a vengeance. And that is about it, except that any Anthony Mann film is worth watching for the cinematography, the great black and white shadow photography, and the nice pacing.       

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