T-Men (1947)

“And so, with a hazy mental picture of a vague character called the Schemer, Agent O’Brien arrived in Los Angeles to start the second major phase of the investigation.”

Synopsis:
U.S. Treasury agents Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) go undercover to try to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring.

Genres:

Review:
T-Men was one of director Anthony Mann’s earliest collaborations with gifted cinematographer John Alton (who also worked with Mann on 1948’s Raw Deal and 1949’s Reign of Terror). The result is an atmospheric, stylish thriller with strong performances and many moments of genuine tension. Unfortunately, the script is flawed by a pedantic narration (see the quote above), which — while ostensibly meant to impart a “documentary feel” to the film — simply interferes with the flow of the story. Nonetheless, T-Men remains worthy viewing at least once, especially for noir fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dennis O’Keefe, perfectly cast in the lead role
  • Wallace Ford as “the Schemer”
  • John Alton’s stunning noir cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “T-Men (1947)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must-see, for its historical relevance, its place in cinema history, and Alton’s noir camerawork.

    This one took a bit of time for me to warm to…but not that much. It does start out a bit too much like a standard police procedural…but momentum builds…and it builds quite nicely.

    Along the way, we’re guided immeasurably by Alton’s work as DP. If ‘T-Men’ isn’t a great movie, Alton elevates a good flick to a very good one – what he contributed alone makes the film worth a watch (~though director Mann is no slouch here either).

    Oddly, though I did recognize the narration, I felt it’s used very sparingly. I’m not a huge fan of narration either but I didn’t find the occasional voice-over intrusive at all.

    This is a movie that will most likely get under your skin as it progresses. It has a snazzy, well-constructed script with believable dialogue, and some nice twists and turns before its satisfying conclusion.

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