1946 Certificate: pg


Burt Lancaster made his debut as a boxer murdered by two hitmen in Robert Siodmak's outstanding crime drama, based on an Ernest Hemingway story. Edmond O'Brien is the insurance investigator who pieces the case together, while Ava Gardner makes her searing breakthrough as a heartless femme fatale. It's a noir masterclass, exerting a relentless grip thanks to tight plotting, mesmerising performances and Miklos Rosza's atmospheric score (you'll recognise the dum-da-dum-dum signature later used in Dragnet). All that, plus a robbery staged in one audacious take.


  • Robert Siodmak


  • Burt Lancaster

  • Ava Gardner

  • Edmond O'Brien


First film version of Ernest Hemingway's thriller (remade 18 years later starring Lee Marvin), with its marvellously intricate plot, thundering drama throughout and a mighty punch in the final scene.

A host of well-known players contribute to the film's success and there's an excellent performance from Edmond O'Brien in the pivotal role. Other noteworthy portrayals come from menacing Jack Lambert and from Burt Lancaster, shooting to stardom in his first film.

Two then newish actors, William Conrad (later to find television fame as Cannon) and Charles McGraw, register solidly as the killers of the title.

The plot reveals surprise after surprise, while director Robert Siodmak, a German exile then at the peak of his Hollywood career, ensures that the nervous tension never lets up from the first moment that the killers move on to the scene.

Review from IPC