Raw Deal (1948)

“What do you know about anything? You probably had your bread buttered on both sides since the day you were born.”

Synopsis:
With help from his lovestruck moll (Claire Trevor), a convict (Dennis O’Keefe) escapes from prison and kidnaps a soft-hearted social worker (Marsha Hunt) while fleeing from both the police and his deceitful crime boss (Raymond Burr).

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Review:
Anthony Mann and DP John Alton collaborated on several Peary-listed titles, including T-Men (1947), Reign of Terror (1949), Devil’s Doorway (1950), and this gritty escape drama about a convict caught between his growing love for a “good” woman (Hunt) and loyalty for his girlfriend (Trevor). The three key characters in the film are indeed given a “raw deal”: O’Keefe took the rap on behalf of his corrupt boss (Burr), who not-so-secretly hopes O’Keefe will be killed during his escape; Trevor is desperately in love with O’Keefe, but recognizes Hunt as a legitimate threat to her status; and do-gooder Hunt simply wants to help O’Keefe, but ends up kidnapped and endangered as a result. The performances (including supporting roles by Burr, John Ireland, and others) are all excellent, and the storyline is reliably tense — but it’s Mann and Alton’s visual work that really ties this piece together as a stylistic gem of the genre (see stills below).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dennis O’Keefe as Joe Sullivan
  • Claire Trevor as Pat
  • John Alton’s highly atmospheric cinematography



  • Anthony Mann’s consistently inventive direction

Must See?
Yes, as a nifty little noir flick.

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One Response to “Raw Deal (1948)”

  1. A must-see – and one that probably satisfies on repeat viewings.

    Copying from my post in facebook’s ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’:

    “All my life, it seems, I’ve been waiting for Joe.”

    ‘Raw Deal’ (1948) [streaming on Filmstruck]: How in the Sam Hill did I miss *this* one before now?! Clearly among the best in noir, directed by Anthony Mann and shot by DP John Alton, this is a Master Class in visual style. It just doesn’t quit. And the script is no slouch either. Replete with juicy dialogue (“You’re something from under a rock!”), this is a tense tale of a fall guy (Dennis O’Keefe) who successfully breaks out of prison…only to fall deeper…and deeper. He goes on the run with two women (Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt), embarking on a rather tangled love triangle indeed. In the complex mix are perennial stooge John Ireland and supremely creepy Raymond Burr. Clocking in at just under 80 minutes, this is a non-stop winner…with a (practically literally) holy hell of a finish!

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