It doesn’t surprise me that Martin Scorsese is a fan of cult filmmaker Sam Fuller (“The Big Red One”, “The Deadly Trackers”), with this surprisingly mature 1961 crime-drama starting off a little like the early scenes in “Goodfellas”. Played as an adult by Cliff Robertson (interestingly nonchalant about his actions, but perhaps a little too All-American looking for the role), Tolly is a former street hoodlum who catches a glimpse of his father’s murderers, resorts to petty crime and is thrown in jail, where he passes the time thinking of revenge. Robert Emhardt, an undervalued character actor wonderfully portrays the Sydney Greenstreet-ish crime boss (who was not, in fact, one of the men who killed Robertson’s father) who is outwardly respectable, stealing the film. Richard Rust is positively chilling as one of Emhardt’s chief enforcers (and one of the murderers), and Beatrice Kay is top-notch as the moll/girlfriend of Robertson’s father, who looks out for him as much as she can. Dolores Dorn plays ‘Cuddles’ the gangster’s moll whom Robertson might be falling for. Larry Gates plays the federal agent Robertson is also manipulating, in scenes all-too reminiscent of crime melodramas of the time (one of the few debits of an otherwise very different crime flick for the time, refreshing, in fact).
Superb black and white cinematography by Hal Mohr (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Walking Dead”), with the initial murder-through-silhouette a particular standout. This is B-grade noir, but a pretty good one at that. Screenplay by the director, this one’s worth seeking out, especially for noir fans or Sam Fuller completists.