The Threat


1h 6m 1949
The Threat

Brief Synopsis

An escaped con kidnaps the people he thinks put him behind bars.

Film Details

Also Known As
Terror
Genre
Action
Crime
Film Noir
Release Date
Nov 26, 1949
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,935ft

Synopsis

After cold-blooded killer Arnold "Red" Kluger escapes from Folsom State Penitentiary, Los Angeles district attorney Barker "Mac" MacDonald and police detective Ray Williams, who helped convict Kluger, are notified, as Kluger has sworn to kill both men. Upon hearing the news, Ray immediately leaves his pregnant wife Ann to report for duty and is kidnapped by Kluger and his thug, Nick Damon, while getting into his car. Kluger also orchestrates the kidnapping of Mac and Carol, a showgirl and former moll, and takes all three victims to his hideout. There, by threatening the middle-aged Mac with torture, Kluger pressures Ray into filing a false progress report with his supervisor, Murphy. Kluger then questions Ray about Carol, his partner Tony Anzo's former girl friend, whom he suspects of informing on him. Although Ray tells Kluger that Carol was not the informant, the criminal refuses to believe him, pointing out that a bracelet on Carol's arm was taken from the safety deposit box whose stolen contents were used to convict him. When Carol insists that Tony was the "squealer," Ray supports her claims by revealing to Kluger that the anonymous tip that led to his capture came from Mexico, where Tony is now in hiding. Ray also tells Kluger that $100,000 was missing from the box, money that Carol obviously does not have. Although his confidence in Tony is now a bit shaken, Kluger proceeds with his plan to rendezvous with his partner in the desert and forces his victims into a truck, which he has ordered from the unsuspecting Joe Turner. Kluger also loads Ray's unmarked police car into the vehicle and drills lookout holes in its side. At gunpoint, Joe is forced by Kluger to drive the truck, with thug Lefty as his cabmate. After narrowly escaping detection at a police roadblock, the criminals are exposed when Ray, who is tied up inside his car, manages to blow the horn and alert a motorcycle officer. Using the lookout holes, Kluger guns down the officer, however, and the truck speeds off. Soon after, Kluger orders everyone into Ray's car and, abandoning the truck, the crooks head for their hideout in Banning, where Tony is to meet them in his airplane. There Kluger, Nick and Lefty keep Ray and Mac handcuffed in an inner room, while they wait for Tony in the outer room. When Kluger hears on Ray's police radio that the police are expecting Tony to fly in from Mexico, he forces Ray to give Murphy false information about Kluger's whereabouts. Before hanging up, however, Ray also relays a message to Ann, sending his regards to "Dexter," the name that Ann wants to give to their baby, but that Ray has said he would only use if he "had a gun to his back." Later, Joe, who has sneaked a gun in from his truck, tries to escape, but Kluger shoots him dead. After Nick and Lefty fall asleep in the desert heat, the ever-suspicious Kluger removes the bullets from their guns and rejects Carol's desperate attempt at seduction. Ann, meanwhile, finally deduces her husband's hidden message and, using a police radio, alerts Murphy to the situation. Outside, Kluger overhears Ann's warning on Ray's car radio, but before he can act on the news, Ray, who has been freed by Carol, ambushes both Nick and Lefty. Unaware that the thugs's guns are empty, Ray and Mac retreat to the inner room with Carol, and are almost killed when an enraged Kluger begins shooting at the door. When Kluger hears Tony's airplane overhead and rushes out to signal to it, Ray sneaks onto a rafter in the outer room. Ray then jumps Kluger, who loses his gun but knocks Ray out with a chair. Carol grabs Kluger's gun before he can, however, and fires repeatedly at him, killing him. After thanking Carol for her help, a revived Ray then goes to apprehend Tony. Later, Ann happily informs Ray that she is having twins, only one of which will have to be named Dexter.

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Film Details

Also Known As
Terror
Genre
Action
Crime
Film Noir
Release Date
Nov 26, 1949
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,935ft

Articles

The Threat


Kluger (Charles McGraw), a cold-blooded killer, breaks out of jail and systemically abducts the people he holds responsible for his arrest - the nightclub singer (Virginia Grey) he thinks betrayed him, the cop (Michael O'Shea) who arrested him and the D.A. who sentenced him. With the help of two henchmen and a hired van driver, Kluger takes his hostages deep into the desert where he intends to dispose of them before making his getaway via a hired plane to Mexico. Even the best laid plans can fall apart though and the relentless sun, scorching temperatures and rising tension between Kluger and his accomplices create an explosive atmosphere which eventually erupts in violence.

From the description, The Threat (1949) might sound like countless other low-budget crime thrillers but don't be mistaken. This one packs a mean punch thanks to Charles McGraw's genuinely unnerving performance as the homicidal Kluger. Like William Talman's equally frightening performance as a trigger-happy psycho in The Hitch-Hiker (1953), McGraw deserves some kind of award for his particular brand of menace. It's his formidable presence and Felix Feist's taut direction that elevate this 67-minute programmer into the ranks of B-movie greatness, rivaling The Narrow Margin (1952) and Roadblock (1951) as unheralded film noir gems.

Charles McGraw was once described by author Eddie Muller (in the book, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir) as looking like "an armored car, draped in a pin-striped suit." Even more imposing was his gruff voice, which the author said "sounded like a fist was gripping his larynx whenever he deigned to utter dialogue." Though not well known today, McGraw was a familiar face in B-movie thrillers of the late forties-early fifties (The Killers (1946), Border Incident (1949), His Kind of Woman, 1951). Dissecting his appeal, Muller added that his "broad, blocky presence lent any scene additional heft. As villains, not many players were as physically threatening. As heroes, few conveyed juggernaut determination so off-handedly, or believably. McGraw was simply a natural on-screen. By the early 60's his bluntness had acquired a nicely weathered quality, used to good advantage by Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus [1960]), Anthony Mann (Cimarron [1961]), and Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds [1963]). McGraw's career was tragically cut short by a horrendous fatal accident. He slipped in his shower and crashed through the doors, impaling himself on a huge glass shard. An awful end for one of the great faces and voices of film noir."

Producer: Hugh King
Director: Felix E. Feist
Screenplay: Hugh King
Cinematography: Harry J. Wild
Film Editing: Samuel E. Beetley
Music: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Michael O'Shea (Williams), Virginia Grey (Carol), Charles McGraw (Kluger), Julie Bishop (Ann), Frank Conroy (Mac), Robert Shayne (Murphy), Don McGuire (Joe Turner), Frank Richards (Lefty).
BW-67m.

by Jeff Stafford
The Threat

The Threat

Kluger (Charles McGraw), a cold-blooded killer, breaks out of jail and systemically abducts the people he holds responsible for his arrest - the nightclub singer (Virginia Grey) he thinks betrayed him, the cop (Michael O'Shea) who arrested him and the D.A. who sentenced him. With the help of two henchmen and a hired van driver, Kluger takes his hostages deep into the desert where he intends to dispose of them before making his getaway via a hired plane to Mexico. Even the best laid plans can fall apart though and the relentless sun, scorching temperatures and rising tension between Kluger and his accomplices create an explosive atmosphere which eventually erupts in violence. From the description, The Threat (1949) might sound like countless other low-budget crime thrillers but don't be mistaken. This one packs a mean punch thanks to Charles McGraw's genuinely unnerving performance as the homicidal Kluger. Like William Talman's equally frightening performance as a trigger-happy psycho in The Hitch-Hiker (1953), McGraw deserves some kind of award for his particular brand of menace. It's his formidable presence and Felix Feist's taut direction that elevate this 67-minute programmer into the ranks of B-movie greatness, rivaling The Narrow Margin (1952) and Roadblock (1951) as unheralded film noir gems. Charles McGraw was once described by author Eddie Muller (in the book, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir) as looking like "an armored car, draped in a pin-striped suit." Even more imposing was his gruff voice, which the author said "sounded like a fist was gripping his larynx whenever he deigned to utter dialogue." Though not well known today, McGraw was a familiar face in B-movie thrillers of the late forties-early fifties (The Killers (1946), Border Incident (1949), His Kind of Woman, 1951). Dissecting his appeal, Muller added that his "broad, blocky presence lent any scene additional heft. As villains, not many players were as physically threatening. As heroes, few conveyed juggernaut determination so off-handedly, or believably. McGraw was simply a natural on-screen. By the early 60's his bluntness had acquired a nicely weathered quality, used to good advantage by Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus [1960]), Anthony Mann (Cimarron [1961]), and Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds [1963]). McGraw's career was tragically cut short by a horrendous fatal accident. He slipped in his shower and crashed through the doors, impaling himself on a huge glass shard. An awful end for one of the great faces and voices of film noir." Producer: Hugh King Director: Felix E. Feist Screenplay: Hugh King Cinematography: Harry J. Wild Film Editing: Samuel E. Beetley Music: Paul Sawtell Cast: Michael O'Shea (Williams), Virginia Grey (Carol), Charles McGraw (Kluger), Julie Bishop (Ann), Frank Conroy (Mac), Robert Shayne (Murphy), Don McGuire (Joe Turner), Frank Richards (Lefty). BW-67m. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Terror. "Kluger" was Charles McGraw's first starring role. RKO contract star Gloria Grahame was first assigned to the part of "Carol," but refused the role and was suspended by the studio. Although Jason Robards is listed as a "technician" in the CBCS, he did not appear in the final film. According to a Hollywood Reporter pre-production news item, the picture was to have been shot at the Los Angeles Civic Center, but no scenes in the final film were set there.