Michael Sauter
November 15, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Anthony Mann’s Noir Colors

Although he made his name as an auteur of edgy westerns (Winchester ’73), Anthony Mann cut his directorial teeth on taut, terse crime films — three of which have just been released on video by Kino. It’s a good excuse to pair up T-Men and He Walked By Night for a perfect video double bill. Documentary-style police procedurals that vividly break with genre conventions, T-Men‘s centerpiece is a searing steam-room rubout, while the climax of He Walked by Night (codirected by Alfred L. Werker) is even more memorable — a chase through L.A.’s cavernous storm sewers.

As engrossing as these potboilers are, they seem like mere warm-ups for Raw Deal, a gem unearthed on video for the first time. The story’s deceptively familiar: A framed convict (Dennis O’Keefe) breaks out of prison and makes a run for it, taking along his loyal girlfriend (Claire Trevor) and a hostage (Marsha Hunt). But as an ill-fated romantic triangle takes shape, the conflicting emotions bring unexpected depth to stock character types. Add Raymond Burr as a sadistic villain, and a tour de force showdown that begins in a fog-enshrouded alley and ends in a burning hotel suite, and you’ve set the scene for a classic film noir fade-out. Quentin Tarantino, eat your heart out. This is truly great pulp fiction. T-Men: B+ He Walked by Night: B+ Raw Deal: A

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