What a pleasure to discover this great little noir!!
Just broadcast twice on TCM last week, this movie featured the best black and white cinematography of John Alton that I've ever seen, with a blend of moody hyper-realism and romanticism that belies the relatively modest budget of this movie. If you watch this movie without the sound, it is particularly interesting to note the composition, dramatic lighting and, believe it or not, beautiful visual romantic aura created by Alton for this occasionally grisly story. Btw, between He Walked By Night and this movie, my quota for self-administered medical procedures as entertainment has been filled for some time.
Daniel Fuchs' script is engaging, witty (watch for those well-placed signs that appear in certain key parts of the movie) and full of nice contrasts between the criminal world and the oh, so stultifying straight world, (at least in the world created in this movie, it made it seem as though anyone who wasn't a bit of a criminal was a dullard. See the amusing performance of John Qualen as a dentist for evidence of this approach).
Paul Henreid, who plays a dual role, gives what may be the man's most complex performance as a guy who thinks he has all the answers. It's as though Victor Lazlo and Jerry Durrance wised up, ditched their ideals and their girls and bent all that fine breeding and brains to what has been called "a left-handed form of human endeavor"--crime with a capital C. No small potatoes for this guy, he's going to go out of this world big...he thinks.
A sympathetic Joan Bennett is at her loveliest in this movie, delivering the best, rueful line in the movie, "It's a bitter little world full of sad surprises, and you don't let anyone hurt you."