Saturday, July 12, 2014

A SIMMERING 'RAW DEAL' IS COOKED TO PERFECTION

From left, Pat Cameron (Claire Trevor), Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt) and  Joe Sullivan (Dennis O'Keefe) are on the run from the law in 'Raw Deal' (1948).
In film noir, it's unusual for the femme fatale to act as narrator. But in "Raw Deal," the dilemmas of conscience are seen through the eyes of the morally challenged Pat Cameron (Claire Trevor), who only cares about saving her convict boyfriend Joe Sullivan's (Dennis O'Keefe) and her own skin.
When social  worker Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt), a straight arrow if there ever was one, enters the picture, Pat start to feel that do-gooder Ann is crowding her out of the picture.
Joe wants a "breath of fresh air," and skips out of prison, but circumstances bring Joe, Pat and Ann together, and the three go on the lam. It doesn't take long for the smoldering love triangle to catch fire.

Strange Music in my Ears
Pat comments on the action in voiceover, while some other-worldly music warbles in the background. It's almost as though the Amazing Kreskin is interpreting the action.
Director Anthony Mann handles the film's violence artfully. "Raw Deal"'s several fistfights and shootouts happen in dark, shadowy or foggy places, and we don't really see who is getting the better of whom, but that ramps up the tension.
Each of the three main characters faces a moral dilemma or two. When another outlaw appears on the scene and begs for shelter, Joe must decide whether or not to hide the unlucky perp and put himself in jeopardy. Predictably, Pat wants to lock the schnook out of the house they're holed up in, but Joe, against his better judgment let's the "poor slob" come in.

Going Native
Meanwhile, Ann, kidnapped by Joe and Pat, gets a strong case of Stockholm syndrome and goes from good girl to gaga for Joe.
When Pat receives the call that head bad guy Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr) has Ann, and that he's going to do her in if Joe doesn't turn himself in to the gang boss, Pat chooses to sacrifice Ann to an almost certain death at the hands of Rick and his henchmen. She flunks the morality test when she dummies up and doesn't tell Joe, who would certainly make like the Calvary and snatch the imprisoned Ann from the evil Rick.
As the clock ticks and they plan to head for South America, Pat gets a pang of conscience. It's a last minute bit of redemption, and she fesses up and tells Joe that Ann's in trouble and is with Rick.

Joe to the Rescue!
Joe confronts Rick, and holds a gun on him, but Rick outdraws Joe and they wound each other. They struggle and the apartment accidentally catches fire. In one of the film's less convincing process shots, Rick flies out the window and is killed stories below on the sidewalk.
Joe is reunited with Ann, and he apparently saves her, but tumbles down the front stairs and dies in Ann's arms as a befuddled Pat looks  on helplessly. Joe finally got the breath of fresh air he wanted but won't live long enough to savor it. Pat finally sees happiness in Joe's face, but he dies in  the street as Rick's office burns
Pat is the heroine of the story, which explains why we're hearing her voice as narrator rather than Joe's or Ann's. While Ann makes the leap from being a rigid "good" citizen to one who bends her principles for the man she secretly has come to love, Pat is redeemed when she decides to do something that is morally sound, even if it means that there's a good chance that she'll end up sacrificing Joe.

Stream this on Netflix while you can!