What began as a documentary on federal prisons became Tourneur’s first Hollywood feature: a punchy, crime-doesn’t-pay gangster saga shot on location in penitentiaries across the country (including Alcatraz). Anticipating his most famous role in Detour, Tom Neal plays a down-and-out drifter who, along with a hard-boiled moll (Rita Johnson), journeys from the depths of the criminal underworld through the “rehabilitative” American penal system. Displaying his facility for wringing maximum atmosphere from a B budget, Tourneur imbues the film with a shadow-splashed, proto-noir look and caps things off with a knockout bit of brutality involving a blowtorch. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
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