Film Review: Red Light (1949)

Also known as: Mr. Gideon (working title)
Release Date: September 30th, 1949
Directed by: Roy Del Ruth
Written by: George Callahan, Charles Grayson
Based on: This Guy Gideon by Don ‘Red’ Barry
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: George Raft, Virginia Mayo, Raymond Burr, Harry Morgan

Roy Del Ruth Productions, United Artists, 83 Minutes

Review:

“You know, Johnny, when you play solitaire you can only beat yourself.” – Strecker

There is just something about seeing Raymond Burr play an evil man. Sure, he was exceptional as the heroic lawyer on Perry Mason but slightly earlier in his career, Burr was typically a heavy in film-noir. This is one of those films and really, Burr is once again great as a villainous rogue.

The film also stars George Raft and Virginia Mayo, right on the heels of her iconic performance opposite of James Cagney in White Heat. In fact, the film was marketed using her image in a way that channels her character from White Heat, even though her character here is nothing like the poster implies.

The story sees a bookkeeper named Nick Cherney (Burr) sent to prison for embezzling from Torno’s (Raft) trucking company. Four years later, Cherney hires another inmate to murder Torno’s brother Jess, giving Cherney an alibi in his quest for revenge, as he isn’t yet released from prison. Being that this is a film-noir, things obviously go sideways, backwards and every which way but forward.

Overall, Red Light is a pretty enjoyable movie. The plot is good and the cinematography is pretty well done. The dark scene in the apartment where a man is shot is well captured. The highlight however, is the sequence in the truck yard at night, where one of the characters ends up crushed to death by a trailer. It’s a pretty cold and gruesome moment, even though the censors wouldn’t allow for gore at the time.

I liked Red Light a lot. While it isn’t in the upper echelon of classic film-noir, it is certainly a better than average picture with solid execution from all parties involved.

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