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Criminal Minds

Friday, August 13, 2010
7:00 p.m. The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond
Budd Boetticher (U.S., 1960)

The rise is always more thrilling than the fall. In the case of Jack “Legs” Diamond, the rise was a steep increase in mayhem, punctuated by bare knuckles, pistol whipping, and a bullet or two dodged. Legs was a sensational twenties thug who went from humble hoofer at New York’s Hotsy Totsy Club to syndicate kingpin, and he did it with a vicious verve that was awe-expiring. Director Budd Boetticher’s roaring twenties has the roar of a Thompson on full auto, loud and lethal. Ray Danton puts his all into this hard-as-diamonds role as the suave-but-deadly crime climber who gleefully gorillas his way to the top. Warren Oates appears as brother Eddie, while Karen Steele gives a suitably sapped portrayal of Legs' mistress-turned-wife. A sociopath unable to develop loyalties, Legs betrays all those around him. His cool cruelty chills his estranged wife, who insists “You’re as good as dead now.” But Legs wouldn’t fall for that.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Joseph Landon. Photographed by Lucien Ballard. With Ray Danton, Karen Steele, Elaine Stewart, Jesse White. (1960, 101 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Warner Bros)