Force of Evil (1948) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt Runtime: 79 min Release Date: 25 Dec 1948
If you get the chance you should do yourself a favour and catch this forgotten classic of film noir. A great atmosphere and hauntingly poetic dialogue. 9/10
Poetic language and photography; deeply impressive (by saquebut)
I've seen this film 4 times, at various stages of my life. When I was young, I thought its philosophical claims were very deep. On later viewings I continued to love John Garfield's airy delivery of lines and Thomas Gomez' nobility, and I thought Beatrice Pearson was the most beautiful and enchanting creature in the world. Still later, I came to appreciate the skill of the filmmakers in manipulating my feelings, without losing all of my initial enthusiasm at a cinematically naive level. When I saw it recently, the musical underlay bothered me, but I could remember and partially <more>
re-experience the thrill of my first encounter with the film.
The perfect noir film, morally profound, brilliantly made (by robert-temple-1)
Can there ever have been a better noir film than this? Everything about it is perfect, every camera angle, every frame, every bit of editing, every performance, the script, the direction, the music. Abe Polonsky, who wrote the screenplay and directed, was a genius. Some commentators have suggested that this film is political, presumably because of Polonsky's notorious politics which led to his being black-listed, but I can see nothing political in it whatever; it is purely a moral study. Beatrice Pearson, as the girl, is one of the most enchanting and luminous presences ever to grace the <more>
screen. Her performance is so subtle in its gradations of purity tempted by evil, that it deserved an Oscar. She conveys more by lowering and raising her eyes than most actresses could do with a thousand lines of dialogue. John Garfield gives his best of many brilliant performances. Possibly no other actor could have pulled off this complex role without sacrificing honesty, without ever once trying to make the audience love him. Garfield sacrificed his ego to be Joe Morse, mercilessly and nakedly. Garfield and Pearson are both richly multi-dimensional, and their scenes together are masterpieces, as perfectly composed as Botticelli paintings, and just as well executed. Polonsky's touch of leaving Beatrice sitting on a mantle is just one of many flashes of directorial genius. Dozens of lines of dialogue are unforgettable,and the script is so intelligent it borders on being a Platonic dialogue. Garfield and the sultry, alluring Marie Windsor are also magic together, with him oblivious of her irresistability, while she sizzles the screen with her sexual power, apparently effortlessly. This film probably also contains the best ever performance by Thomas Gomez, as Garfield's older brother. The deeper levels of this film are never far from sight, and it is one of the most brilliant studies of the corrupting power of evil ever committed to film. It is as searing in its search for the true hearts of men and women as any morality tale ever told. Nothing about it is contrived. It is honesty at its most searing, probing at its most corrosive, questioning at its most naked, a work of disturbing and unforgettable genius. Rembrandt could not paint shadows like that, nor could Vermeer reveal such gleams of light in the darkness, as are glimpsed from even one second of Beatrice Pearson's tentative, trembling, shimmering eyes when she smiles at John Garfield like a lost, hesitant doe in the wood.
Great mix of mobsters and sibling rivalry in overlooked gem... (by Don-102)
Martin Scorsese has hailed this film as one of the forgotten masterpieces of the film-noir genre. He took it a step further by resurrecting the film from the vaults and teaching it at NYU in the late 60's. He said it was the first film he ever saw that related "to a world he knew and saw." Indeed, the film's realism and location shooting is great to see, especially Wall Street circa 1948. Those scrapers have stood for a long time. This is not traditional noir, however. It is an excellent study of a personal battle between two brothers. Joe John Garfield is a rich, corrupt <more>
mob lawyer, not unlike Duvall in the Godfather flicks. His older brother Leo A great actor named Thomas Gomez is a banker trying to live on the "up and up".The relationship is a tragic one. Thomas Gomez must be one of the most underrated actors of his day. He steals every scene he's in with the quick-talking Garfield, who was so good in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. This may be familiar to fans of RAGING BULL, where both sets of brothers in two very different films love each other, but have a difficult time displaying affection.Two fabulous scenes stand out and would be impossible if shot in color. The first occurs when Garfield stumbles upon a darkened office with his door slightly ajar. The light from his office cuts through the middle of the screen, allowing Garfield to snoop. Another is the shootout at the film's climax, where all of the three shooters are lying in the shadows, creating suspense based on what we cannot see. It is all done in a very impressionistic way, a superb use of lighting and shadow. This is black and white at its best. Pure and evil. A truly great film. I would stay focused on the scenes between Gomez and Garfield. This sad brotherhood plays incredibly against a brilliant backdrop of crime and double-crossing.FORCE OF EVIL is another reminder of how good Hollywood films of the 1940's were. Without them, we probably would not have the classics of the past 25 years.
Oft times an author's first major work is his/her best work. This is true for director Abraham Polonsky. Had Polonsky not been blacklisted by the Hollywood and Congressional bigots who knows what he might have done. Certainly his earlier script for "Body and Soul" is one of the best in movie history. Since he was later blacklisted by the power hungry hooligans of the nation, it is easy to read too much Marxism and Communist psycho-babble into "Force of Evil." In pointing out that there is not much difference between underworld numbers banking and banking in the world <more>
of acceptable business, Polonsky is utilizing social and political criticism, not of necessity a Marxist slant. Marxism is an entire Utopian recreation of the economic world order, not artistic expression and intellectual conceptualization as presented by Polonsky in "Force of Evil." The director/writer is also concerned with moral bankruptcy in justifying evil as a means of rationalizing big profits from illegal activities.There is a spin off story concerning two brothers, one of whom has warped scruples who helped his younger brother become a successful if now corrupt corporate lawyer with no scruples until tempered by the seemingly innocent babe in the woods Doris Lowry Beatrice Pearson who in reality has questionable morals herself yet clothed in hypocrisy. Both Doris and Leo Morse Thomas Gomez are pursued by their own demons. The viewer has to determine where the moral depravity or evil actually lies and with whom. The title "Force of Evil" could just as well be "THE Force of Evil," since evil tends to be almost omnipotent that every mortal is tempted and it takes very strong souls indeed to resist and remain true to heart. It's much easier to make a deal with the devil in the fashion of Faust and to take the wrong highway at the crossroads.The brilliant John Garfield who left this world much too soon never gave a poor performance. Only Garfield could have done justice to the complicated complex character of Joe Morse. Yet Thomas Gomez stays up with Garfield all the way and nearly steals the show as Joe's impenetrable sibling whose persona appears one-dimensional on the surface until one begins to scratch away the enamel.A delectable bonus for the viewer is the magnetic New York City photography that takes on the appearance of Edward Hopper paintings, as Polonsky intended. All the exterior shots are to be savored but one that sticks in the mind long after the film ends is near the final credits when Joe seeks where his brother Leo's body has been dumped. The narration by Joe tells it all as he runs in a desperate gait downward toward the murky water, with Doris trying to keep up but mainly just watching.One of the neglected movie gems of the 1940's, not to be missed.
The VHS version I own of Force of Evil is one with a forward by Martin Scorsese. In it Scorsese says that this film was the first one that depicted a world he knew, growing up in New York City. Scorses was mesmerized by it as a kid and studied it frame by frame as when he grew up. He pays tribute to Force of Evil saying that you can see the influence of it Mean Streets, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas.Of course the fact that the film was shot totally on location in scintillating black and white noir in New York City, gave it a dimension that no other noir films have, save possibly Night and the <more>
City which was also shot on location in London.John Garfield who was as quintessential a New Yorker as you could get plays Joe Morse, smooth lawyer for a big time racketeer Roy Roberts who is looking to either take over or muscle out the small time policy banks in the numbers racket. One of those banks is owned by Garfield's brother, Thomas Gomez.Garfield is as ruthless as Roberts, but with a velvet glove. He tries to get Gomez to go along with the syndicate, but Gomez balks. There's also a prosecutor looking into the numbers racket and a tapped phone which figures prominently in the climax.Given the leftwing polemics of both the star and director Abraham Polonsky, Force of Evil got the attention of the ultra rightwing House Un American Activities Committee. Polonsky was blacklisted for over 20 years and Garfield died under the strain of the investigation.Given what has happened to the Soviet Union, I wonder if Garfield and Polonsky were alive today what they would say and how they would feel about their work here. It's interesting to speculate.But as entertainment Force of Evil is a great success and that is the first rule of film. Also look for a good performance by Marie Windsor as Roberts's wife with a yen for Garfield. One of her first femme fatale roles and one of her best.
Too heavy dose of didacticism wrapped in pretty good film noir (by bmacv)
Throughout Force of Evil, something bothersome keeps nagging away. At first, it seems to be the film's considerable artifice -- the freighted "blank verse" dialogue, the dark, ominously composed shots, the adroitly modulated score, the sudden eruptions of violence. But cumulatively it becomes clear that we're responding not so much to artifice as artificiality -- the sense that writer-director Abraham Polansky is hovering just offscreen, pulling all the strings.It remains quite an achievement nonetheless. A filial drama, it runs along the love/hate ties that bind brothers <more>
John Garfield and Thomas Gomez. Gomez, 50 and ailing, runs a tenement policy bank that takes in nickels and dimes. Young upstart Garfield rakes in tens of thousands as a Wall Street lawyer with connections to an underworld syndicate. Just before the Fourth of July -- when the racket has been rigged to break the small-time operators by ensuring that the number 776 will hit -- Garfield's guilty conscience leads him into warning off his brother, triggering a catastrophic chain of events.Polansky doesn't bother to hide his Marxist-tinged world view. It's one thing to depict the bosses of crime and finance as heartless louses, but it doesn't ring true to have the slum-dwellers and policy workers display their decency and dignity at every turn. We know Marie Windsor is a Wicked Woman when she glides smoothly into the lights keeping her voice so low and silky we have to strain to catch what duplicity she's up to. Garfield's signature torment reaches such a perfervid boil here that we wonder why he ended up on Wall Street, not a lamasary.Still, the melodrama crackles, and the cast plays to the hilt this is Gomez' shining moment in the noir cycle -- not a lackey nor an ogre, he's a mensch at the crossroads . Film noir emerged, at least in part, in response to a brutally fractured world. Whatever "messages" the movies contained were implicit and often inchoate. Force of Evil misreads the cycle's cool, suggestive style by mounting its arguments so schematically. It's a swift and brutal work that reminds us to eat our peas once or twice too often.
Classic Noir film contains sensational performances , evocative cinematography and interesting intrigue (by ma-cortes)
An unethical and cynical lawyer called Joe Morse John Garfield , with an older brother he wants to help , becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket . But his elder brother Leo Thomas Gomez is one of these small-time operators who wishes to stay that way , opting not to deal with the mobsters Roy Roberts , Paul Fix who control the big-time . His employees are like family to him as his secretary, Doris Lowry Chamberlain , is like a daughter , then Joe falls in love for her . As the ambitious attorney attempts to save his brother from the mob boss's takeover of the <more>
numbers operation . The upright , though criminal brother refuses the help of the amoral advocate at law and he is ultimately forced to confront his conscience . This enjoyable film contains emotion , thrills , suspense , charming intrigue about corruption , and a lot of elements of Noir cinema . Main actor and screenwriter/director were pursued by American government during ominous period of Mccarthismo. Thought-provoking writing credits , written by Polonsky ; being based on a novel novel "Tucker's People¨ by Ira Wolfert . Very good and sizzling acting by John Garfield as a corrupt lawyer . Garfield had a sad as well fruitful life , as he signed a contract with Warner Brothers, who changed his name to John Garfield . Won enormous praise for his role of the cynical Mickey Borden in ¨Four Daughters¨ 1938 . Appeared in similar roles throughout his career despite his efforts to play varied parts , being his best film : ¨Body and soul¨ . He played in adventure movie as ¨The sea Wolf¨ , historical as ¨Juarez¨ , drama as ¨Tortilla flat¨, a cameo in ¨Jigsaw¨ and the noir classic ¨The postman always rings twice¨. Active in liberal political and social causes, he found himself embroiled in Communist scare of the late 1940s. Though he testified before Congress that he was never a Communist, his ability to get work declined. While separated from his wife, he succumbed to long-term heart problems, dying suddenly in the home of a woman friend at 39. His funeral was mobbed by thousands of fans, in the largest funeral attendance for an actor since Rudolph Valentino. Excellent support cast gives magnificent acting such as Thomas Gomez as Leo Morse , Marie Windsor as Edna Tucker , Roy Roberts as Ben Tucker, Paul Fix as Bill Ficco and introducing the attractive Howland Chamberlain . Atmospheric and appropriate cinematography in black and white by George Barnes who along with James Wong Howe , John Alton and Nicolas Musuraka are the main cameramen of Noir genre . In order to show cinematographer George Barnes how he wanted the film to look, Abraham Polonsky gave him a book of Edward Hopper's Third Avenue paintings . Thrilling as well as evocative musical score by the David Raskin Laura . Adequate photography in black and white filled with lights and shades , portentous interpretations and dark as well as twisted intrigue have made this a film nor classic . The motion picture was well directed by Abraham Polonsky and it was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994 . Director Polonski was removed from the credits for a time after release, due to the blacklisting of supposed Communist sympathizers at the time . Polonsky was named as a member of the Communist Party by Hollywood 10 member Edward Dmytryk in Dmytryk's 1951 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee , when the blacklisted director "named names" to revive his Hollywood career and effect a return from exile in Europe . After being named by former fellow O.S.S. member Sterling Hayden, Polonsky himself was arraigned before HUAC in 1951 . He was blacklisted and went into exile . As director and screenwriter , Polonsky was an "auteur" of three of the great film Noirs made in the last century: Body and soul 1947 screenplay , directed by fellow CPUSA member Robert Rossen, who kept his career by "naming names" , Force of evil 1948 which he wrote and directed , and Odds against tomorrow 1959 which he wrote using a front . Blacklisted after his uncooperative appearance before HUAC in April 1951, Polonsky did not get a chance to direct another film until 1968, when he helmed the production of the revisionist Western Tell them Willie Boy is here 1969 , which he turned into an indictment of genocide . It wasn't until 1968 that he was credited on a film, for the screenplay for Don Siegel's exegesis of police corruption, Madigan 1968 . Polonsky has a short career and after the release of the well-reviewed "Willie Boy," he helmed his last failed picture , the more light-hearted Romance of a horse thief 1971 .
film noir in all its cynical glory! (by MartinHafer)
This film isn't the grittiest Film Noir flick, as it's a little more polished than the average film of this genre. And, it has fewer dames and bullets, but it does plunge deep into the underbelly of the criminal world. It stars John Garfield as a scumbag lawyer who will seemingly to ANYTHING for a buck--including defending evil racketeers and destroying or manipulating evidence to do it gee, this seems REALLY far-fetched for a lawyer to do this . The problem is, over time, all the great money that comes his way can't completely buy off his conscience. Slowly, it begins eating at <more>
him--leading to a fast-paced and, of course, violent conclusion. See this to see a slightly more polished and sophisticated view of the noir world.