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Force of Evil

Force of Evil

Director: Abraham Polonsky

Cast: John Garfield, Thomas Gomez, Marie Windsor


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Sometimes one gets the feeling that the wrong people own some of the best movies. Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil (1948) is one of the finest movies of the 1940s and one of the most beautiful, troubling, and haunting movies ever made -- period. It's been given a nice enough treatment by Artisan Entertainment, but it could have been given so much more. Martin


Sometimes one gets the feeling that the wrong people own some of the best movies. Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil (1948) is one of the finest movies of the 1940s and one of the most beautiful, troubling, and haunting movies ever made -- period. It's been given a nice enough treatment by Artisan Entertainment, but it could have been given so much more. Martin Scorsese is one of its many notable admirers in the film community, and this DVD might well have been issued with some kind of supplement. Not only is the movie one of the best in the Artisan library, but it's one of the most fascinating, with many imminent blacklistees in its cast and crew, as well as the presence of future directors Don Weis and Robert Aldrich. If only Republic Pictures, the current owners, cared about including quality supplementary materials -- even those that they already own -- or thought along those lines, but they don't. As to what is here, the full-screen transfer (1.33:1) is impeccable, with true blacks that have their own peculiar negative glow. The detail in the images is extraordinary, even in the medium shots -- you can even make out the fabric in the collar of the shirt that John Garfield is wearing in the police station scene at 26 minutes in; the final shoot-out in the darkened office looks as good as it ever did in a theater off a 35 mm print (and that's really good); and the cab ride at 28 minutes in is possibly the best-looking scene in a black-and-white film-to-DVD transfer ever. The quality of this DVD puts the old Republic/Pioneer laserdisc to shame -- even the audio is mastered better, with richer, more detailed playback on the audio, and David Raksin's score never sounded better, although the overall volume is very slightly low (but so was the sound on the laser release, and it wasn't as clean there). The 82-minute movie has been given a generous 14 chapters, but there are no extras (apart from an needless 16 x 9 enhancement), not even a trailer.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Force of Evil helped define many of the elements of the post-war film noir. The film has developed a strong cult following as much for its influential stylistic touches (such as using shades of black, white, and gray to play on themes of good, evil, and the shades in-between) as for its gorgeously shaded cinematography, adapted from 1920s German Expressionist films. John Garfield's portrayal of a corrupt mob lawyer, with its combination of weariness, idealism, and greed, would come to define the noir hero. As became common in noir films, characters often behave contrary to their better judgment because they feel trapped by forces beyond their control or are torn by multiple loyalties. Beatrice Pearson turns in the prototypical performance of a good girl attracted to the wrong guy for the wrong reasons. Garfield's clean-living banker brother is played elegantly by Thomas Gomez, and the conflict between the two provides the film's moral battlefield. Director and co-screenwriter Abraham Polonsky, whose fingerprints are all over the poetic and brooding script, would be blacklisted after the release of this film: it uses illicit numbers running as a metaphor for unethical business practices in post-war America, and some people weren't too pleased with Polonsky's "subversive" politics. He would not work for the studios again for twenty years. Despite his potent and rounded performance, the film nearly derailed Garfield's career as well. While few people may have heard of it, Force of Evil is a seminal work in film noir despite its overt political message, unusual for a work in this genre. Martin Scorsese, for one, has cited the film as an early influence on his own sensibility.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Republic Pictures
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Full-screen version; Dolby monaural audio; Digitally mastered

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Garfield Joe Morse
Thomas Gomez Leo Morse
Marie Windsor Edna Tucker
Roy Roberts Ben Tucker
Beatrice Pearson Doris Lowry
Howland Chamberlain Freddy Bauer
Paul McVey Hobe Wheelock
Jack Overman Juice
Tim Ryan Johnson
Barbara Woodell Mary
Raymond Largay Bunte
Stanley Prager Wally
Beau Bridges Frankie Tucker
Allen Mathews Badgley
Barry Kelley Egan
Sheldon Leonard Ficco
Georgia Backus Sylvia Morse
Sid Tomack "Two & Two" Taylor
Jessie Arnold Actor
Margaret Bert Actor
Mildred Boyd Mother
Ralph Brooks Actor
John Butler Banker
John Collum Actor
Bert Davidson Attorney
James Davies Actor
Jim Drum Actor
Jay Eaton Actor
Joel Fluellen Father
Richard H. Gordon Actor
Sherry Hall Actor
William H. O'Brien Dancer
Arthur O'Connell Link Hall
Edward Peil Counterman
Bob Reeves Actor
Shimen Ruskin Sorter
Carl Sklover Actor
Bobby Stebbins Norval
Diane Stewart Girl
Robert Strong Court Reporter
Jim Toney Actor
Robert B. Williams Elevator Starter
Margo Woode Receptionist
Fred Somers Actor
Roger Cole Actor
Carl Hanson Actor
Richard Elmore Actor
Louise Saraydar Hatcheck Girl
Ray Hirsch Newsboy
Paul Fix Ficco
Murray Alper Comptroller
Sam Ash Man
Bert Hanlon Cigar Man
Bill Neff Law Clerk
Frank Pharr Bootblack
Joe Warfield Collector
Perry Ivins Mr. Middleton
Cliff Clark Police Lieutenant
Phil Tully Policeman
Paul Newlan Policeman
Max Wagner Policeman
Chuck Hamilton Policeman
Carl Saxe Policeman
George Magrill Policeman
Ralph Dunn Policeman
Bud Wiser Policeman
Brick Sullivan Policeman
Ray Hyke Policeman
Jimmie Dundee Dineen
Douglas Carter Man
Milt Kibbee Richards
Esther Somers Mrs. Lowry
Mervin Williams Goodspeed
Frank O'Connor Bailiff
David McKim Cashier
William Challee Gunman
Joey Ray Gunman
John Indrisano Henchman
Stanley Waxman Manager
Estelle Etterre Secretary
Helen Eby-Rock Secretary
Mickey Rooney Boy
Paul H. Frees Elevator Operator
Richard Reeves Policeman
Larry Blake Detective
Budd Fine Butcher
Charles Evans Judge
Will Lee Waiter
Dave Fresco Gunman

Technical Credits
Abraham Polonsky Director,Screenwriter
Robert Aldrich Asst. Director
George Barnes Cinematographer
Jack Baur Casting
Edward Boyle Set Decoration/Design
Richard Day Art Director
Gus Norin Makeup
Rudolph Polk Musical Direction/Supervision
David Raksin Score Composer
Bob Roberts Producer
Art Seid Editor
Walter Thompson Editor
Frank Webster Sound/Sound Designer
Louise Wilson Costumes/Costume Designer
Ira Wolfert Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Title/Law of Numbers [9:15]
2. Bank of Brothers [9:59]
3. Rigging the System [4:22]
4. Guilty as Charged [5:49]
5. The Penny Pincher [2:19]
6. Soapbox Preaching [2:23]
7. Cooking the Books [6:25]
8. "A Little Click" [6:00]
9. Corrupting Doris [2:46]
10. Something Rotten [7:16]
11. Getting Ahead [3:34]
12. Ready to Quit [4:14]
13. Drunken Celebration [4:05]
14. Bad Business [7:23]
15. Finding Leo [2:32]

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