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B Noir: Crime Wave and The Killer Is Loose

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B Noir: Crime Wave and The Killer Is Loose

Crime Wave (André De Toth, 1954) and The Killer Is Loose (Budd Boetticher, 1956). Goodness gets very little breathing room in Crime Wave, André De Toth’s arresting noir about an ex-con who gets the squeeze by three escaped cons being hunted by Sterling Hayden. The film’s docu-realist aesthetic has a French New Wave lucidity and an undulating sense of montage, suggesting characters caught in the riptide of a moral terror beyond their control. The story isn’t groundbreaking but the emotional feeling it affects is gripping and haunting. Budd Boetticher’s The Killer Is Loose is a bit loose-limbed at first but grows into a remarkably sick tittie-twister. Wendell Corey, as the bespectacled bank robber who vows to kill the wife of the police officer (Joseph Cotton) who killed his own wife, is a creepy maniac on a mission that spares no one. The final scene, in which Corey is dressed as a woman and stalks Rhonda Fleming back to her house is a tense show of doubt and shifting perspectives—a remarkable finale that obviously had an influence on Brian De Palma (imagine it in color and give it a split-screen and you might be watching Dressed to Kill or Raising Cain).

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.