One of Anthony Mann's finest forays into film noir, T-MEN was also one of the director's first financial triumphs. O'Keefe and Ryder are two treasury agents determined to crack a successful counterfeiting ring after a fellow agent is killed during the investigation. In order to obtain
first-class information, the agents pose as underworld hoods and infiltrate a powerful Detroit mob family headed by Kosta. They discover that Ford, a sleazy LA-based hood with a penchant for steam baths, may hold the key to the counterfeiting ring, so the agents ingratiate themselves with him.
Ford is afraid he'll soon be knocked off by the boys in Detroit, and his fears are justified; they have sent McGraw to kill him. Suspecting that Ryder is a T-Man, Ford informs McGraw of his suspicions, hoping that he'll be allowed to live. McGraw accepts the news and then locks Ford in a steam
bath and turns the steam on full blast. The sadistic killer stands and watches as the hysterical Ford tries to smash the glass in the tiny window, to no avail. Meanwhile, Ryder finally cracks the secret of the counterfeiting operation, just as McGraw and the gang, O'Keefe among them, arrive
intending to kill him.
When PRC studios and Britain's J. Arthur Rank organization merged to form Eagle-Lion, the new owners encouraged better scripts and more artistic creativity while providing bigger budgets to achieve their goals. Director Mann rose to the occasion and began a series of fascinating film noir crime
dramas (T-MEN, RAW DEAL, and THE BLACK BOOK) with superb cinematographer John Alton. Presented in a documentary-like style with narration by Reed Hadley, T-MEN shifts from the bureaucratic staunchness of a voiceover to the shadowy, out-of-control world of film noir. In what would become a major
theme in Mann's later work (especially in his westerns with Jimmy Stewart), the film examines the thin line between the law and the lawless, the hunters and the hunted. Though lawmen O'Keefe and Ryder plunge themselves into the criminal element with fervor, they are party to acts only sanctioned
by society if one wears a badge. These themes are illustrated beautifully by Alton's visuals, which put the agents in the same shadowy light as the criminals. The film is at its most shocking during the steam bath murder and the scene is intense and horrifying enough to disturb most sensitive
viewers. Mann and Alton's work for Eagle-Lion was so distinguished that MGM took note and signed both of them.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: One of Anthony Mann's finest forays into film noir, T-MEN was also one of the director's first financial triumphs. O'Keefe and Ryder are two treasury agents determined to crack a successful counterfeiting ring after a fellow agent is killed during the inve… (more)