Raw Deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the Raw Deal with Dennis O’Keefe, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of 1948.
Classic Flix is quickly becoming my favorite video label. Specializing in film noir, the company released stunning, features-laden Blu-ray editions of T-Men and He Walked By Night in 2017. This year, the Classic Flixsters have released an equally stunning restoration of director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton’s second collaboration, Raw Deal.
a few weeks ago. Both films are notable for Alton’s groundbreaking images, but I noticed an interesting difference between the cinematography in the two films. There are many striking shots in T-Men, but they can pull you out of the narrative; they’re so evocative or beautiful or unique that they call attention to themselves as created images. Yet T-Men’s charms do not lie in its narrative, so being reminded that we are watching a movie is not a problem. The stunning cinematography props up fairly standard material.
The narrative of Raw Deal, on the other hand, needs no cinematographic crutch. The film is still beautiful to look at, with stunning lens work and shot compositions—but the team of Mann and Alton knew enough to temper their “gee whiz” proclivities to better serve one of the most interesting film noir plots ever filmed.
Sullivan escapes alive, but he and Regan need some wheels—so they kidnap Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt), a legal secretary who had pitied Sullivan and his hardscrabble childhood and had tried to get him a parole. As the uneasy threesome of Sullivan, Regan, and Martin travel south to meet up with Coyle, romantic intrigue rears its ugly head. Regan is insanely jealous of Martin. Martin starts to like being a bad girl. And what is with Coyle’s obsession with fire and burning things?
Spoiler Alert: Given that the film was made in the late 1940s, when the Production Code was still in effect, it is immensely satisfying to see how the film bends over backwards to give us both 1) the “good girl” shooting someone and LIKING IT and 2) an artfully contrived plot point that lets her continue being the “good girl.” The flips and twists and pirouettes that many film noirs perform in order to “skate around” the corners of the Production Code is often thrilling.
Screenwriter John C. Higgins worked on the script for both T-Men (suggested by a story by Virginia Kellogg) and Raw Deal (with Leopold Atlas.) The two films seem to be having a competition for the most vivid and horrible death scene. I think it’s a tie, but you can take your pick: Death by parboiling in a locked steam room in T-Men, or death by dessert in Raw Deal, as Raymond Burr throws flaming Cherries Jubilee in his girlfriend’s face. Raw Deal probably wins this grim sweepstakes because it also features a bad guy impaled on the antlers of a stuffed deer.
I like violent crime films with imagination!
It’s A Wonderful Life. This is the fun game I will play in my old age, when watching too many movies has rendered me blind.
Listen—you need to see Raw Deal. Specifically, you need to see Classic Flix’s new restoration of Raw Deal, which also features an engaging audio commentary with film historian Jeremy Arnold; two featurettes (“Deadly is the Male: The Making of Raw Deal” and “Dennis O'Keefe: An Extraordinary Ordinary Guy,” with the actor’s son, Jim O'Keefe); a restoration demonstration; an image gallery; and other film noir trailers.
In closing, I could say something like, “Buy this disc; you won’t get a RAW DEAL,” but that’s such a lame, jokey closer that I would be afraid that one of my readers might fling flaming Cherries Jubilee in my face. How about this: “See Raw Deal, you won’t get (Raymond) BURR-NED! It’s a noir that will (Dennis O’) KEEFE you coming back for more!” Wait… PUT DOWN THAT SAUTEE PAN!
Ouch and yum.
(It offers terrific suspense and that rare feeling that we really don’t know where this story is going.)
(Raymond Burr’s pyro-maniacal psychotic is truly creepy.)
(Some great car stunts and fistfights provide exciting noir action.)