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Against the Law: The Crime Films of Anthony Mann

February 7, 2014 - February 28, 2014


Anthony Mann didn’t like his early films of the 1940s. Only with Desperate, five productions into a twelve-film crime cycle, did he begin to warm up to his cold-hearted pictures. Most lauded for his great Westerns of the 1950s, the best starring James Stewart, Mann ascended the studio system, beginning with second-bill Bs. His crime cycle, beginning in 1944 with Strangers in the Night and ending six years later with Side Street, shows an increasing mastery of mood and menace, advanced by a quartet of collaborations (T-Men, Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, Border Incident) with cinematographer John Alton, a master of emotionally dank lighting. Character types and themes that recur throughout Mann’s oeuvre also begin to find delirious expression in his criminal cinema.

As Mann scholar Max Alvarez notes: “The crime pictures are not exceptions in our comprehension of a fully realized Anthony Mann production: like the later films, they are inhabited by psychologically complex, volatile, emotionally scarred protagonists prone to erratic and violent behavior.” In Mann’s harsh world, average Joes find themselves summoning untapped aggression to ward off the dangers of an overlooked criminal demimonde. Mann also perfected a subset of the crime film, the documentary-like feature, propelled by a vivid voice-over. This invention would influence everything from Jack Webb’s Dragnet to latter-day CSI.

On the occasion of the publication of his new book, The Crime Films of Anthony Mann, Max Alvarez joins us to introduce two films. Don’t miss this tribute to Man’s inhumanity to Mann.

Steve Seid, Video Curator

Friday, February 7, 2014
7:00 p.m. Strange Impersonation
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1946). Archival Print! The scientific method meets the delirium of dreams in this oddball outing from Anthony Mann, who may have invented a new genre: the mad-scientist noir romantic melodrama. (68 mins)

Friday, February 7, 2014
8:30 p.m. Desperate
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1947). A newlywed Everycouple flees the mob and the law in the first and least known of Mann's celebrated film noir cycle. (73 mins)

Thursday, February 13, 2014
7:00 p.m. T-Men
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1948). Introduced by Max Alvarez. Archival Print! Two U.S. Treasury Agents go underground to shut down a funny-money ring in this documentary-style noir, shot by the great John Alton. (92 mins)

Friday, February 14, 2014
8:50 p.m. Raw Deal
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1948). Introduced by Max Alvarez. Archival Print! A convict breaks out of jail in search of vengeance—but a demented thug (Raymond Burr) has other ideas. In another stylish, shadowy Mann/Alton collaboration from the 1940s, "the violence, both physical and emotional, is still shocking” (Chicago Reader). (78 mins)

Friday, February 21, 2014
7:00 p.m. He Walked by Night
Alfred Werker, Anthony Mann (U.S., 1949). Richard Basehart stars as an icy criminal on the run after waxing a cop in Mann’s documentary-style noir, a huge influence on the show Dragnet. "A gritty masterpiece!" (Errol Morris). (79 mins)

Friday, February 21, 2014
8:40 p.m. Border Incident
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1949). Mann and cinematographer John Alton work the border between Western and noir in this incredibly tense tale of immigration agents and human smuggling, starring Ricardo Montalbán. (92 mins)

Friday, February 28, 2014
7:00 p.m. Side Street
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1950). In this downbeat drama with Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, the narrator declares, “This is the story of Joe Norson. No hero, no criminal—just human like all of us.” Human, yes, but dwelling amidst the cold concrete of NYC. (82 mins)

Special thanks to the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress; the UCLA Film & Television Archive; Alexander W. Kogan, Jr. at Films Around the World; and Max Alvarez.