T-Men and Strange Impersonation

I’ve seen T-Men before. In fact it may have been the first Film Noir I ever saw. If not the very first, then one of the first for sure.

But any chance to see hot, sweaty, nearly naked Charles McGraw on the big screen is worth taking.

A pair of US Treasury agents, played by Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder, go undercover to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring. “Going undercover” in this film seems to mean spending a lot of time in steam rooms dressed in nothing but towels. Not that I’m complaining. O’Keefe’s famous line; “Have you ever spent ten days in a Turkish bath looking for a man?” still cracks me up every time.

T-Men falls into the category of “DocuNoir.” You know, ripped from the headlines, heavy on the anti-crime propaganda, dull, authoritative narration. Seems like strange bedfellows with Mann’s stylish, shadow-heavy visuals, but it works. And did I mention Charles McGraw?

McGraw is at his bad-ass best as a heavy named Moxie who likes breaking fingers. If there was ever a face made to be half in shadow, it’s McGraw’s. Best profile in Noir City. If you haven’t seen T-Men yet, go watch it now. I’ll wait.

Next up, another Anthony Mann film; Strange Impersonation.

This movie gets on the express bus to bizarroville in the first reel and doesn’t let up. I loved every minute of it. I don’t even know how to begin recounting the delirious plot, and I don’t want to give too much away, but here’s the set up:

A lady scientist (!) invents a new form of anesthesia, which she decides to test on herself at home.

On the way there, she hits a drunk pedestrian with her car. The woman is unhurt at the time, but after being approached by an ambulance chasing lawyer, she starts to get dollar signs in her eyes. Meanwhile the anesthesia test goes haywire when the scientist’s best friend (statuesque blond goddess Hillary Brooke) betrays her. The scientist winds up hospitalized and severely disfigured while the foxy friend sets to work stealing her tepid, chinless fiancé, played by William Gargan. (Isn’t Gargan one of the monsters that fights Godzilla?)

Of all the wild, outlandish plot twists in this film, the one I had the hardest time believing is the idea that any woman would ever want to fuck this guy, let alone murder another woman to be with him.

That aside, Strange Impersonation was an absolute hoot from start to finish. It’s not a great film, probably not even a good film, but I loved it. Unironically.

Tonight, a prison double bill of Caged and Big House USA.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.