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The Manhunt No Woman Could Stop!

1948

Director
Writers
Actors
Plot
Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is a seemingly happy contractor married to his wife Edith (Janet Leigh). When he returned home from the war he decided to move from being a destroyer (a soldier) to being a builder (a contractor). Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) is the opposite - he returned from the war bitter and with vengeance on his mind. He and his fellow soldiers were betrayed by their commander (Helfin) in a POW camp and he is hunting out the traitor. His vengeance is so all consuming that not even his girlfriend Pat (Mary Astor) can get through to him that if he kills Enley he will be killing himself.

Analysis
This is one of the darkest postwar movies of the film noir period. It deals head on with the horrors and life altering decisions that had to be made "over there." Actions and motives are misunderstood, the horrors of war are relived, and dues are paid.

Act of Violence covers most of the standard film noir motifs--pitch black rooms with faces partially obscured, empty rainy streets, and skewed camera angles. If also runs the gamut of film noir themes--good women trying to save doomed men, bad women pushing men into the Abyss, past misdeeds coming back, and the question of whether a man can really change.

Beyond these standard pieces Act of Violence focuses heavily on auditory motifs--something unusual for the noirs. Enley's child seems to scream with an inhuman tone as Parkson approaches. As Enley eludes Parkson by walking through a tunnel we hear the warped sounds and words of his time and dealings with the Nazis in the POW camp. In the final scene a train comes screaming through the deserted station covering up life saving dialogue. It is almost as if Zinnemann is nodding to Fritz Lang's M with its feeling of the hunt and its reliance on sound to find the killer.

This movie is an integral part to any complete understanding of the film noir. It seems as though this film has vanished from the face of the earth except for periodic replays at the whim of Turner Classic Movies.

Source - The Internet Movie Database