Wednesday, September 26, 2018

“Crime Wave” is Gritty Film Noir

The 1954 film, “Crime Wave,” was one I had never seen until this summer when it ran on Eddie Muller’s weekly TCM program, Noir Alley.
As Muller said in his introduction to the film (which you can watch here), “Crime Wave” could not be a simpler story. What makes it a terrific film is the way it is told, the tension, the snappy dialogue, and the cast.

Gene Nelson, a dancer who appeared in numerous musicals, does a good job playing an ex-con trying to go straight and live a quiet life with his wife, played by Phyllis Kirk. One night, some guys he knew in the joint barge in on them. They need a place to hide, but when the heat is turned up on them, they kidnap the couple and force the guy into participating in a bank robbery.

The cop turning up the heat is played by tough, towering Sterling Hayden. Muller said Hayden in this movie was author James Ellroy’s model for the brutal police detective, Bud White, in Ellroy’s novel, L.A. Confidential.

The bad guys are played by Ted de Corsia and a young Charles Bronson under his real name, Charles Buchinsky. In a small role, the amazingly odd Timothy Carey, plays a weird hood ordered to watch the wife while the others pull the job. Phyllis Kirk being left alone with Carey is one of the creepiest scenes in film noir.

Every moment of this 73-minute, black and white movie is tough, thanks to the direction of Andre De Toth.

Muller obviously liked this movie and had a lot to say about it before and after the picture. (You can see his post script here.)


  1. Elgin, I haven't watched a good noir film in years and if I should, as I'd like to, I'll probably have to watch them online, maybe on YouTube. How young is Bronson in this film?!

    1. Prashant – I hope you get to see this film. It is one of the better crime pictures of that era, thanks mostly to good casting. Bronson was about 31 when he made CRIME WAVE.

  2. Sounds good, Elgin. Another one to keep an eye out for!