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Monday, March 3, 2014

'Roadblock' DVD: Honest Gumshoe Yields to Temptation

Roadblock (1951)
The unfairly overlooked 1951 noir film "Roadblock," which Warner Archive recently released on DVD, is a great homage to the 1944 Billy Wilder/Raymond Chandler noir classic "Double Indemnity." Both flicks involve an honest insurance company employee who learns the hard way that dames ain't nothin' but trouble.

In the case of "Roadblock, insurance company detective "Honest" Joe Peters begins his descent into corruption when the stranger he meets on a plane is a wise-cracking material girl living in a material world. Joe knowing within minutes that that broad is as crooked as a pre-teen's teeth does not prevent him from falling and falling hard.

Peters sacrifices his virtue by providing inside dope that facilitates a heist even before femme fatale Diane sacrifices what is left of her virtue to him.

Seeing Joe's friends and colleagues continue treating him like the swell guy they know and watching him participate in investigating the crime for which he is responsible makes for great cinema. An interrogation scene complete with a bright overhead light, grilling hot enough to fry an egg, and a Dempsey-quality beat down is one of the best segments in the film.

This film is additionally notable for perhaps being the first movie that touches on the girl the boy meets being out his league. In this case, said girl ignores this by letting said boy go to first base early in their relationship.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an early scene in "Roadblock" is typical of tone and the theme of the film. It also shows that pining for a girl and/or buying her a fir can pay off.

The only frustrating element of this cleverly scripted, well directed film with an overall good cast is that the leads do not generate enough heat to warm a sinker.

Veteran tough guy Charles McGraw of the Hitchcock classic "The Birds" and leading lady Joan Dixon individually good jobs as Joe and Diane but simply do not sell their allegedly mutual passion. What is supposed to be eternal devotion is as flat as a day-old balloon on a hot summer day. 

The better news is that this lackluster lust does not prevent enjoying everything else that "Roadblock" has to offer; smoldering glances and passionate embraces are only gravy when you begin with a  foundation of prime beef.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Roadblock" is welcome to send an email but you may have to beat any dope that you want out of me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Whistling is another option if you know how to put your lips together and blow.