Brute Force (1947) Film Review B+

DIRECTOR: Jules Dassin.
BOTTOM LINE: “Brute Force” was among several noir films made by director Jules Dassin during the postwar period. The others were “Thieves’ Highway,” “The Naked City,” and “Night and the City.” The latter is that rare film noir which is set in London. Britain had its own glorious period of film noir thanks to the genius of Carol Reid and “The Odd Man Out,” “The Fallen Idol” and “The Third Man” in addition to John Boulting’s “Brighton Rock” and J. Lee Thompson’s “Yield to the Night.” However, none of them made London City a character in the movie like Dassin did in “Night and the City.” He had gone to London because of rumors that he was going to be investigated by the HUAC. Shortly after his return to the US, he was named by a recanting Edward Dmytryk, and his Hollywood career was over.
It’s an expertly told prison break story with an above-average screenplay by future director Richard Brooks. Our LGBTQ+ character is the hateful Captain Munsey, a sadist who speaks in a slightly higher octave than the rest of the male cast and the prison’s lone female warden. Munsey is fastidious about his looks – there is a beautiful and lovingly choreographed shaving sequence – and he is interested in art and music. There is no doubt about it. He is a raving homosexual and a very nasty one at that! Hume Cronyn, a consummate actor, plays him to the hilt. Cronyn has played a number of gay parts on stage and screen, and he has also helped gay writer Arthur Laurents adapt “Rope” for Hitchcock; his performance is never insulting. In fact, we are constantly on the edge of our seats in case he orders another unfortunate inmate to his office for another round of torture. But Cronyn is not the only actor who you cannot take your eyes off. A superb Burt Lancaster, who had just become a star in Producer Mark Hellinger’s “The Killers,” is back in Hellinger territory as Joe Collins, a prisoner who cannot take the Munsey treatment and is planning a breakout. His fellow prisoners consist of such greats as Charles Bickford, Sam Levene, Jeff Corey, Whit Bissell, and Art Smith, who, as the prison’s alcoholic doctorgets to break the fourth wall and make an appeal to the audience as the closing credits begin to roll.



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