Force of Evil


John Garfield, in the best performance of his career, portrays Joe Morse, an ambitious attorney who has long since abandoned his scruples in favor of monetary reward. Morse now represents the interests of crime boss Ben Tucker Roy Roberts, who plans to take over the numbers racket in New York. Morse has devised a way of doing this legally and above-board, with no violence: Tucker's people will bring about the collapse of the illegal numbers racket in the city, using a race track-betting scam that will bankrupt ...
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John Garfield, in the best performance of his career, portrays Joe Morse, an ambitious attorney who has long since abandoned his scruples in favor of monetary reward. Morse now represents the interests of crime boss Ben Tucker Roy Roberts, who plans to take over the numbers racket in New York. Morse has devised a way of doing this legally and above-board, with no violence: Tucker's people will bring about the collapse of the illegal numbers racket in the city, using a race track-betting scam that will bankrupt the small-time underworld numbers banks; an investigation will ensue, along with a call for a legal numbers operation in the form of a lottery, which Tucker will control through Morse's machinations. The whole plan hinges on Morse's estranged brother, Leo Thomas Gomez, a small-time numbers banker who is to be shielded from the collapse, and who will serve as the "legitimate" front for Tucker. Leo is the flaw in the plan, however, because not only can't he stand the sight of Joe, but he is also too honest to participate in the plan -- he doesn't want his employees, all decent people just looking to earn a living, forced into the employ of real gangsters. Joe orchestrates a series of police raids that force Leo into his corner, and Joe's plan seems to be working out, but then the whole enterprise is threatened when a rival mob, run by Tucker's former Prohibition-era partner, Fico Paul Fix, starts pressuring Leo, trying to get to Joe and Tucker. Fico and his men aren't any different from Tucker's mob, except that they're prepared to start shooting sooner to get what they want. Tucker decides to hang tough and expects everyone, including Leo, to do the same, even when Fico starts sending thugs around to frighten everyone. Soon Joe is beset by problems on three fronts -- he wants his brother out of Tucker's combination and safe; he is trying to romance Leo's bookkeeper Beatrice Pearson, who is too nice a girl for who he is; and his own well-being is threatened by both Fico and Tucker, and a state investigator who has already tapped the phone of Joe's otherwise respectable partner. All of these threads are pulled together in the final section of the film, which is as violent and disturbing, yet poetic and graceful a resolution as any crime film of the 1940s ever delivered. Force of Evil was star-crossed almost from the start, as many of the people involved, including star John Garfield and director Abraham Polonsky a writer making his debut behind the camera, with help from assistant director Don Weis in doing the camera set-ups and blocking, were suspect at the time for their leftist political views. Indeed, the company that made Force of Evil, Enterprise Productions, was also in trouble for the leftist leanings of its films in the midst of the Red Scare, and went out of business just as the movie was finished -- dropped by United Artists and picked up by MGM, of all studios, Force of Evil made it into theaters during Christmas week of 1948, not the ideal schedule for something as grim albeit great as this film was. As it turned out, it was Polonsky's last chance to direct for more than 20 years, and Garfield's last completely successful film. And a movie that should have been a triumph for all concerned ended up a cult favorite.
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Special Features

Martin Scorsese movie classics introduction of Force of Evil
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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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/31/2012
  • UPC: 887090045308
  • Original Release: 1948
  • Rating:

  • Source: Olive Films
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Remastered / B&W
  • Time: 1:18:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 18,463

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
Margaret Bert
Mildred Boyd Mother
Ralph Brooks
John Butler Banker
John Collum
Bert Davidson Attorney
Jim Davies
Jim Drum
Jay Eaton
Joel Fluellen Father
Richard H. Gordon
Sherry Hall
William H. O'Brien Dancer
Arthur O'Connell Link Hall
Edward Peil Sr. Counterman
Bob Reeves
Shimen Ruskin Sorter
Carl Sklover
Bobby Stebbins Norval
Diane Stewart Girl
Robert Strong Court Reporter
Jim Toney
Robert B. Williams Elevator Starter
Margo Woode Receptionist
Fred Somers
Roger Cole
Carl Hanson
Richard Elmore
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
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Force of Evil
1. Opening [9:52]
2. Leo's Bank [9:25]
3. Rigging the System [10:22]
4. Brother's Keeper [12:14]
5. A Little Click [7:41]
6. Something Rotten [10:47]
7. No Way Out [8:23]
8. Dirty Business [10:11]
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Disc #1 -- Force of Evil
   Special Feature
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