Cast & Crew
After a bank robbery, Dr. Frank Matson waits with gangster John Wheeler, Wheeler's lover Laura and his henchmen, for the rest of the gang to arrive. Wheeler sends Laura to ask Matson for medication for his headache, and after giving Wheeler some pills, Matson calmly picks up the medical bag containing the proceeds of the robbery and starts to leave. Laura asks to come along, and Matson tells Wheeler that the pills he swallowed contained poison. After promising to telephone him with the antidote, Matson and Laura drive away. They are surprised by Arnie, one of the gang, who is hiding in the back seat of the car, having overheard Matson's conversation with Wheeler, and now demands the money. While Laura drives, Matson wrestles with Arnie and kills him. He then reveals that the pills he gave to Wheeler were harmless, and an upset Laura crashes the car. When the police arrive, Matson claims that Arnie was a hitchhiker and was killed during the accident. Later, they buy a used car and continue toward Mexico. Laura tells Matson that she loves him, but Matson makes it clear that he is not interested in love. Meanwhile, Wheeler learns about the automobile accident and plans to track down Matson and Laura. Once past the Mexican border, Matson and Laura hire a plane, which breaks down near a small village. They are approached by Father Moreno, a priest, who offers them food and then scares off bandit brothers Francisco and Antonio Morales. Later, Capt. Rodriguez arrives with his men and offers to take the pilot to a town where he can buy the necessary parts to fix the plane. After Moreno takes Laura and Matson to the village, he explains that a small girl is sick and asks Matson to help her. Matson reluctantly agrees, sparking a fight with medicine woman Catalina, but it is too late, as the girl is already dead. He then tells Laura that he had once unsuccessfully tried to save the life of a woman he loved. Learning from the girl's brother Santiago that the village horse is sick, Matson volunteers to help. That evening, Laura tells Matson she wishes to stay in the village, not travel on to Mexico City as he intends. The ailing horse recovers and when the plane arrives, Matson bows to the pressure of Laura and the village children and stays behind. Later, Ollie, one of Wheeler's men, questions the pilot, who tells him that Laura and Matson went to Mexico City. After several weeks, Rodriguez and Moreno arrive with supplies for the hospital that Matson has set up in the village. The Morales brothers also arrive and interrupt an operation. When Santiago intervenes, one of the brothers shoots him, and is shot in turn by the soldiers. After Moreno privately reveals that Wheeler is still looking for him, Matson decides to return the money and settle things with him. He then promises to allow Moreno to conduct a private marriage ceremony when he returns to the village. Together Laura and Matson travel to California. Before he meets with Wheeler, Matson tells Laura how much he loves her and adds that even if he dies, knowing her has made his life worthwhile. When Matson arrives at Wheeler's apartment, he learns that Ollie killed Wheeler during a quarrel over money and now intends to kill Matson. Matson reaches into his bag to get the money for Ollie, and shoots him through the bag with a gun he had hidden there. He then returns to Laura, who is waiting across the street. She hurries to his side, but as he leaves to phone the airlines, he is hit by a car and killed.
Glenn E. Anderson
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
David S. Horsley
Ruby R. Levitt
Joan St. Oegger
Noir City 2008 Report, Part Two - The Man Between (1953) and One Way Street (1950)
The Man Between (1953) is a crisp British thriller from director Carol Reed shot on location in post-WWII Berlin, but its feeling is unmistakably noir. A young and most fetching Claire Bloom arrives in Berlin to visit her brother (Geoffrey Toone) and his German wife (Hildegarde Neff), but right from the get-go, she and we sense something ominous afoot. Soon enough, Bloom is embroiled in the thick of a plot involving spies, gangsters and kidnappers from the east and west sides of the city. Mason plays Ivo Kern, a "friend" of Neff's whose mysterious actions and associates have us wondering if he's a good guy or a bad guy. Ultimately, he's both, and he brings a great deal of complexity and sympathy to his character (despite an atrocious and half-hearted attempt at a German accent!).
Eventually Bloom herself is kidnapped and brought to East Berlin, and the final act of the story has Mason trying to get her back across the border. Bloom's affections for Mason turn into love when he opens up to her about his vulnerabilities, and a genuinely touching relationship is built, making us truly care about them making it across safely. The ending is bleak and downbeat, true to the spirit of the setting and to film noir. Mason's final act of self-sacrifice makes him literally "the man between": between east and west, good and bad, selfish and selfless. His character is truly a shade of gray.
Director Carol Reed constantly stresses this ambiguity in the way he visually presents Mason in the frame. The way Mason's startling entrances are blocked, and the way he looks ominous in his dark overcoat with the gray city around him, contrasts with his polite, suave manner, and the result is we're fascinated by him even as we don't know what to think about him.
Mostly, though, The Man Between is full of memorable images of a city that is barren and crumbled, full of rubble and despair. Even in the snow, it looks dark and dangerous, conjuring in the audience a feeling a dread. With Mason and Bloom trying by car, train, and foot to escape, the feeling of being trapped in a shadowy, unsafe city in which everyone is trying to get you becomes palpable.
One Way Street (1950) begins as a more traditional noir, with credits over a black-and-white, rain-soaked L.A., but it eventually turns into one of the weirdest noirs you'll ever see. Mason plays an angst-ridden doctor who is associated with a criminal gang led by Dan Duryea. The gang has just stolen $200,000 and they all hide out in an apartment. But Mason quickly pulls off a scheme he has been hatching with Duryea's girlfriend (Marta Toren), and he escapes with her and the money. After disposing of tough-guy Jack Elam, they survive a car crash, rent another car, drive to Tijuana, and hire a small plane to Mexico City. But the plane is forced to make a crash landing in the Mexican wilderness, and Mason and Toren (and the money) end up in a tiny village waiting for the plane to be repaired. This forms a long stretch of the film; the effect is of two "noir" characters being plopped into the middle of a Mexico western, complete with vicious bandits and federales on horseback, and a scene or two of brutal violence. Mason evens dons a sombrero, for goodness sake!
Mason finds joy in applying his medical skill to decent people (and animals), and the peaceful landscape has a calming, rejuvenating effect on Mason and Toren both. By the time they return to L.A. to finish their business with Duryea, who's been trying to track them down, they're in love. The Mexico sequence is something like an extended version of the Mexico sequence in Out of the Past, though One Way Street is not nearly as good as that classic. The Mexico sequence here, full of daylight, openness and kind people, does contrast startlingly with the L.A. of the beginning and the end, which has the effect of making those bookends seem even more strongly "noir." Ever-oily Duryea and his henchman William Conrad also lend a noir feel by their presence alone.
As in The Man Between, Mason in One Way Street spends much time on the run with a woman with whom he falls in love. In both films, his character is fatalistic and cynical, and in both films he dies tragically. In The Man Between, there's poignancy in the sacrifice; in One Way Street, it feels more like the result of the Hollywood Production Code, but the movie, uneven as it is, nonetheless is memorable and worth seeing if one ever gets the chance. Both titles screened in very nice 35mm prints, so hopefully that chance will come.
by Jeremy Arnold
Noir City 2008 Report, Part Two - The Man Between (1953) and One Way Street (1950)
The film's working title was Death on a Side Street. The film begins with the following quotation from "Song of a Fatalist": "Waste no moment, nor a single breath; In fearful flight from death: For no matter the tears that May be wept, The appointment will be kept..." The author of this poem has not been determined. One Way Stret was the first U.S. film of Argentine director Hugo Fregonese. Mexican Vice Consul Ernesto Romero acted as technical advisor on the film. According to studio production notes, an entire "Mexican" village was built on the Universal-International lot. Rodolfo Acosta, Emma Roldan and Margarito Luna were all Mexican actors.
Popular character actor James Best, who appeared briefly in an uncredited role as a "Driver," made his motion picture debut in One Way Street. A Hollywood Citizen-News article reported that screenwriter Louise Rousseau sued Universal-International for $150,000, claiming that One Way Street incorporated material from her original story entitled "Haunted Heart." The final outcome of the suit has not been determined.