Kansas City Confidential [DVD] 
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A classic film noir thriller following the story of a man who has just been released from prison after serving time for a crime he did not commit. Unsurprisingly, he is a little disgrunted, and sets his sights on finding the real perpetrator of the sophisticated armoured car-heist.
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"In the police annals of Kansas City are written lurid chapters concerning the exploits of criminals apprehended and brought to punishment. But it is the purpose of this picture to expose the amazing operations of a man who conceived and executed a "perfect" crime, the true solution of which is "not" entered in "any" case history, and could well be entitled "Kansas City Confidential".
Produced by Edward Small, Kansas City Confidential is believed to be the only film released out of Small's own Associated Players and Producers studio. Still, if you are going to only have one film on your studio résumé, you have to be thankful that it's a little belter. More B movie grit than film noir flecked nastiness, Karlson's movie is lean, mean and structured with knowing skill by the director. From the tremendous tension fuelled opening of the heist planning and execution, through to the deadly payoff at the finale, film is awash with knuckle slappings, shifting identities and the turning of the protagonists psychological make up.Were it not for one of "those" endings, and the telegraphing of optimism slightly shunting the pessimistic atmosphere out of the headlights, this would undoubtedly be far more revered and better known in film noir/crime movie circles.
First thing to note of worth is the cast assembled for the picture. Payne was already leaving behind his formative acting years in family fare like Miracle On 34th Street and Footlight Serenade, reinventing himself as a dramatic actor in films such as The Crooked Way. He's a perfect fit for Joe Rolfe, an ex con war veteran down on his luck, he has his everyman qualities pummelled out of him by the police, so much so he has to turn bad to prove he's good! The change is believable in Payne's hands, his face that of normality in the beginning, but latterly icy cold and untrustworthy. A trio of B movie stalwarts make up the thugs gallery. Jack Elam is sweaty and worm like, Lee Van Cleef is snake faced and pulsing bad attitude, and Neville Brand exudes borderline psychotic menace. Unfortunately Preston Foster as the "boss" man is not altogether convincing, but in a film where characters are not always what they seem, it's doesn't hurt the film.
Coleen Gray shows a nice pair of legs for the boys, but with Karlson not bothered about fleshing out the romantic and flirting aspects of her relationship with Payne, she exists only as a secondary cog between Payne and Foster's characters.This is no femme fatale character. No sir. Music is standard fare and Diskant's photography only fleetingly shows some noir flourishes.But with two fist fulls of grit from which to punch, and some boldness in the narrative involving police brutality, Kansas City Confidential comes out as one of the better B ranked crime movies of the 50's. 8/10
Lots of lighting up, cards, bank notes and an infernal background audio score enough to drive you out to sea. Shootings and punch-ups with the bruises and gashes healing on the instant.
Give it a miss.
Here's part of the plot - Tim Foster (Preston Foster) recruits three criminals to help him rob an armored truck- Pete Harris (Jack Elam), Boyd Kane (Neville Brand), and Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef) --- All star "Noirish" cast of characters and it's right up there with some outstanding dialogue film noir style.
One of the best John Payne noir films -- Definitely entertaining and you can watch this over and over again, catching some scenes you may have missed for full enjoyment -- In many of his films he was an ordinary-guy protagonists in the noir cycle -- Payne is tough, all right, but still shows the flop-sweat of fear; and he's smart, too, but because he's forced to be - what he's trying to hang onto is all he's got, that's gotta be noir at it's best.
Under the production staff of:
Phil Karlson [Director]
George Bruce [Screenplay]
Harry Essex [Screenplay]
Harold Greene [Story]
Rowland Brown [Story]
Edward Small [Producer]
Paul Sawtell [Original Music]
George E. Diskant [Cinematographer]
Buddy Small [Film Editor]
1. Phil Karlson [Director]
Date of Birth: 2 July 1908 - Chicago, Illinois
Date of Death: 12 December 1985 - Los Angeles, California
2. John Payne
Date of Birth: 28 May 1912 - Roanoke, Virginia
Date of Death: 6 December 1989 - Malibu, California
the cast includes:
John Payne - Joe Rolfe
Coleen Gray - Helen Foster
Preston Foster - Tim Foster
Neville Brand - Boyd Kane
Lee Van Cleef - Tony Romano
Jack Elam - Pete Harris
Dona Drake - Teresa
Mario Siletti - Tomaso
Howard Negley - Scott Andrews
Carleton Young - Martin
Don Orlando - Diaz
Ted Ryan - Morelli
Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]
Total Time: 99 min on DVD ~ United Artists ~ (07/10/2007)
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Kansas City Confidential is a 1952 film noir crime film directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne, with Coleen...Read more
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