Dennis O'Keefe in T-Men (dir. Anthony Mann, 1947).

Steaming the Schemer: Wallace Ford and Charles McGraw.

William Malten (an uncredited bit player in his only screen role) fills in the space between dissolves.

Persistent newsreel-like voiceover makes this grimy procedural somehow even more affecting for me, though many viewers might wish it would go away. There's a poignancy to its crackly authoritarian earnestness, as though at any moment the narrator will realize what a tool he is, and that everyone else already knows. I wish there were still movies that used this device. Can you imagine a film about Homeland Security, for example, in which a benevolent invisible spokesman constantly interrupts to tell us how heroic our government's efforts to protect us are? Can you imagine the filmmaking chops it would take to work around this constraint without recourse to overt irony? It would take, for one thing, a cinematographer as bold and sensitive as John Alton. The play of light across Dennis O'Keefe's face when he watches his partner get shot is an entire set piece in itself, and then there are the steam room scenes, in which Alton's camera becomes creepily intimate with the sweating, half-naked lowlifes therein. Charles McGraw's smoothly chiseled physique crowding in on Wallace Ford's flabby middle-aged flesh before he does him horribly in is an expression of something both conscious and unconscious: a statement about animal power in the absence of moral law, and a nervous disclosure of the homoerotic anxieties running through Mann's cinema and the he-man action genre generally.

Dennis O'Keefe: "Did you ever spend ten nights in a Turkish bath looking for a man? Don't."

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