Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The Tall Target (1951) a Civil War noir
It is the story of a New York police detective in 1861, who gets wind of an assassination plot against the newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, and rushes by train toward Baltimore to intercept Lincoln, who is headed for Washington, D.C., before the plotters can get to him.
The detective, John Kennedy, is played by Dick Powell. Powell at that time in his career made a successful transition himself, from juvenile lead in Warner Bros. musicals to film-noir tough guy in movies like “Murder, My Sweet.”
Actor Marshall Thompson plays a West Point cadet who has resigned to join the Southern cause. He is traveling with some serious weapons, his worried sister, her maid, a young slave woman, played by Ruby Dee.
Also on board is a uniformed Northern militia major, played by Adolphe Menjou, a politician who glad hands Kennedy, but seems only to help if he himself can benefit.
Will Geer plays a tough but tolerant train conductor who grows weary of the many hassles and scrapes detective Kennedy finds himself in.
This small, dark, 78-minute movie from 1951 is filled with complex characters, and while it has some hokey moments, it is mostly a taught, well-made and suspenseful mystery.
Credit goes to Anthony Mann for the pacing, the tension, and the look of the film. Here he worked with cameraman Paul Vogel with great results. But at that time, Mann often worked with John Alton who shot some of his great noirs like “Raw Deal,” “T-Men,” and “Border Incident.”
“The Tall Target” is an average title for an above average film.