I watched the Robert Siodmak noir, Criss Cross, last night again after many years: while not a great film, certainly a worthy effort.
The exotic Rumba dance sequence at the beginning of the movie is really fun, and signals that it is the director’s skill that saves this film from mediocrity.
As far as noirs go, Criss-Cross is is atypical. It is more a cautionary tale of besotted love. There is a fatalistic element, but the male lead, Steve Thompson, played with just the right degree of bewilderment by Burt Lancaster, is not so much dealt a raw deal by fate but by his own naivety. The femme, Anna, the Yvonne de Carlo role, is not really a fatale, but the obscure object of desire – the Bunuel pun is intentional – that is Steve’s undoing. Dan Duryea, as always, delivers a solid performance as the bad guy, and veteran character actor, Percy Hilton, is engaging as the wily but sincere bartender.
But it is the cinematic composition by Siodmak and cameraman, and fellow German, Franz Planer, that remains in the memory.
The aerial opening credits where the camera swoops down into the dance-club parking lot onto a passing car, which in its wake exposes the doomed lovers to the spotlight.
The narrow bar to which Steve inexorably returns to find Anna, and the dark and sordid back-alley, where Steve washes off a drunken stupor.
The hawk’s-eye panning shot as Steve drives the armored car between the giant silos of an industrial plant, which by pinning the car to a must-follow root presages the claustrophobic ambush ahead.