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Kansas City Confidential (1952 Movie)
Kansas City Confidential is a 1952 film noir crime film directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne. The film was marketed with the tagline "Exploding like a gun in your face!" and released in the United Kingdom as The Secret Four.Karlson and Payne teamed up a year later for 99 River Street, another noir, followed by a 1955 color film, Hell's Island.Four robbers hold up an armored truck, getting away with over a million dollars in cash. Joe Rolfe (John Payne), a down-on-his-luck flower delivery truck driver is accused of being involved and is roughly interrogated by local police. Released due to lack of evidence, Joe, following the clues to a Mexican resort, decides to look for the men who set him up both to clear his name and to exact revenge. What he doesn't know is that the heist involves a retired policeman who is also intent on revenge.The plot was inspiration for Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.Cast John Payne as Joe Rolfe/Peter Harris Coleen Gray as Helen Foster aka Punkin Preston Foster as Tim Foster Neville Brand as Boyd Kane Lee Van Cleef as Tony Romano Jack Elam as Pete Harris aka Johnson Dona Drake as Teresa Mario Siletti as Tomaso Howard Negley as Andrews Carleton Young as Martin Don Orlando as Diaz Ted Ryan as Morelli Jeff York as Captain McBride (uncredited)Kansas City Confidential was the only film made by Edward Small's short-lived Associated Players and Producers studio. Although the title would suggest that the story takes place in Kansas City, most of the film actually takes place at a fictitious fishing resort in Mexico. Kansas City Confidential was director Karlson's second crime film; he also directed Scandal Sheet, also released in 1952, which proved to be a modest commercial success. Karlson was "a gifted filmmaker who had recently graduated from the Poverty Row studio Monogram"; the film starred John Payne, a "popular crooner of the '40s who some say was working his way down from Technicolor musicals at 20th Century Fox" but after his Fox contract expired produced several of his own films.The staff at Variety magazine said, "With exception of the denouement, director Phil Karlson reins his cast in a grim atmosphere that develops momentum through succeeding reels. Payne delivers an impressive portrayal of an unrelenting outsider who cracks the ring. Time magazine said the film "combines a 'perfect crime' plot with some fair-to-middling moviemaking.... Obviously, the 'confidential' of the title does not refer to the picture's plot, which is a very model of transparency." Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was not a fan, writing that Kansas City Confidential "appears designed—not too adroitly—just to stimulate the curious and the cruel. The screen play by George Bruce and Harry Essex is an illogical fable of crime, the direction by Phil Karlson is routine and the leading role is bluntly acted by John Payne. Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Preston Foster do not shine in other roles, except as drab exponents of the violence that suffuses and corrupts this measly film."When the film was released in DVD format in 2002, film critic Gary Johnson said, "This is prime Karlson. It's brutal, hard-edged, and unflinching, but it's also livened by a distinct streak of optimism. Whereas some directors of film noir preferred the deterministic pessimism of Out of the Past and Raw Deal, Karlson tempered the surface cynicism of his films with an underlying sense of hope." Dave Kehr of The New York Times gave MGM Home Entertainment's 2007 DVD release of the film an extensive review. He called the release an "immeasurable improvement over what had been available": Kansas City Confidential, an imaginative little noir from 1952, exemplifies the bread-and-butter UA film of the '50s....Mr. Karlson, interestingly, concentrates on the story within the story: The leader of the gang is an embittered former police captain...who dons a mask when he interviews prospective collaborators whose names he has drawn from police files....The recruits are three young actors who would come to define menace in the '50s and beyond: Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef, who here has his best role before For a Few Dollars More. Mr. Karlson's filmmaking has few of the standard noir flourishes: the dark and brooding shadows, the bizarrely canted camera angles. Instead he works through gigantic close-ups and an unusually visceral treatment of bare-knuckle violence. With refinements, he would continue to pursue this theme (revenge) and this style, right up through his creative resurgence in the '70s: Ben (1972), Walking Tall (1973) and Framed (1975).
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