High Sierra

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Story, W R Burnett, Screenplay, John Huston, W R Burnett
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy

An aged gangster, Big Mac (Donald MacBride), is planning a robbery at a California resort casino, and he wants an experienced Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart), just released from an eastern prison by a governor’s pardon, to lead the heist and to take charge of the operation. Roy drives across the country to a camp in the mountains to meet up with the three men who will assist him in the heist: Louis Mendoza (Cornel Wilde), who is working in the resort, and Red (Arthur Kennedy) and Babe (Alan Curtis), who are already living at the camp. Babe has also brought along a young woman, Marie (Ida Lupino). Roy wants to send Marie back to Los Angeles, but after some argument she convinces Roy to let her stay. At the camp Roy also is adopted by a small dog called Pard.

Marie falls in love with Roy as he plans and executes the robbery, but he does not reciprocate. On the drive up to the mountains, Roy met the family of Velma (Joan Leslie), a young woman with a deformed foot who walks with a limp. Roy pays for corrective surgery to allow Velma to walk normally. While she is convalescing, Roy asks Velma to marry him, but she refuses, explaining that she is engaged to a man from back home. When Velma’s fiancé arrives, Roy then turns to Marie, and the two become lovers.

While Roy and Marie leave town, a dragnet is put out for him. The two separate in order to allow Marie time to escape, while Roy is pursued until he climbs one of the Sierra mountains, where he holes up overnight. Shortly after sunrise, Roy trades shots with the police down the mountain from him, he hears Pard barking and runs out calling Marie’s name and is shot dead from behind by a sharp shooter.

This Gun for Hire

  • Directors: Frank Tuttle
  • Producers: Richard Blumenthal
  • Writers: Story, Graham Greene, Screenplay, Albert Maltz, W R Burnett
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar

A hit man, called Raven (Ladd), is double-crossed by nightclub owner Willard Gates (Cregar) who acts as a middleman for a traitorous industrialist, the president of Nitro Chemical, Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall).

Traveling to Los Angeles to kill his way to the top of his betrayers, Raven meets up with Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a nightclub magician and singer.

Graham’s been enlisted by a senator to use Gates to find out who is making deals to manufacture poison gas for the Japanese. Ellen’s fianceé Lt. Michael Crane (Robert Preston) tries as best he can to keep up, tracking Raven while wondering if his girlfriend has been kidnapped or is a willing accomplice. Yvonne De Carlo also has a small role.

The Asphalt Jungle

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Arthur Hornblow Jr
  • Writers: W R Burnett, Ben Maddow, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Drama
  • Actors: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, Marilyn Monroe

Recently paroled from prison, legendary burglar “Doc” Riedenschneider (Jaffe), with funding from Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern), a crooked lawyer, gathers a small group of veteran criminals together in the Midwest for a big heist.

The film was shot in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, but the name of the city is never mentioned, giving the impression of an “urban jungle,” rather than of a real location. Doc’s gang consists of: Dix (Hayden), a hooligan from Kentucky with a gambling problem who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of buying back the horse farm that he lost during the Great Depression; Gus Minissi, a hunchbacked diner owner (Whitmore), who is hired as the getaway driver; Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), a professional safecracker, and Cobby, a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acting as the go-between.

In a tense scene during the well-planned crime (an 11-minute sequence in the film), the criminals confidently carry out the heist in a patient and calm manner. Ciavelli climbs down into a manhole, pounds his way through a brick wall, climbs the basement stairs to the jewelry store, deactivates the door’s alarm and lets in the other thieves, and then heads to the main safe. With care, he slides flat on his back under the electric-eye system, picks the gate’s lock, drills holes into the safe’s door, gingerly opens a corked bottle of nitroglycerin (called “the soup” by the characters), and sets off a charge on the jewelry store safe.

From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart as the cops begin closing in on the gang one by one. That includes Emmerich, a double-crosser and an adulterer, who ends up cornered with his much-younger mistress, played by Monroe.

The Great Escape

  • Directors: John Sturges
  • Producers: John Sturges
  • Writers: Book, Paul Brickhill, Screenplay, James Clavell, W R Burnett, Walter Newman
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, History, Thriller, War
  • Actors: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn

Upset by the soldiers and resources wasted in recapturing escaped Allied prisoners of war (POWs), the German High Command concentrates the most-determined and successful of these prisoners to a new, high-security prisoner of war camp that the commandant, Luftwaffe Colonel von Luger (Hannes Messemer), proclaims escape-proof.

On the day of arrival, some of the prisoners make on-the-spur escape attempts which are all foiled by the sharp-eyed German “ferrets” or guards. As the POWs settle into their new camp, the Gestapo and the SS deliver the one they consider to be the most dangerous POW of all: “Big X”, Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), who is the prime organizer of most of the escape attempts made by Allied prisoners in Germany. Gestapo agent Kuhn (Hans Reiser) warns the Briton that he will be shot should he ever escape again. Locked up with “every escape artist in Germany”, Bartlett immediately plans the greatest escape attempted — a tunnel system for exfiltrating 250 prisoners of war, the idea being to “confuse and harass the enemy” to the point that more troops and resources will be wasted on finding and detaining POWs rather than being used on the front line.

Hilts is brought back alone to the camp, and subsequently to the cooler. His fellow American officer, USAAF 1st Lt Goff, throws him his baseball and glove as he walks into solitary confinement. As the Luftwaffe guard locks him in his cell and walks away, he hears the familiar sound of Hilts bouncing his baseball against the cell walls. The film ends with this scene under the caption “This picture is dedicated to the 50.”