Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Ah, that was a nice few days’ not watching anything (other stuff to be done), but back to it, cos those library loans need to be got through… this finds us in noir territory at the end of the 40s, if you count produce truck driving and fruit markets as “noir territory” at least. I think this is Richard Conte’s second appearance on this blog after The Brothers Rico, and this film finds him engaged in family business again, albeit of a different sort. He’s a GI who’s returned from the war and a few more years away from home after same, coming home to find his old man, a farmer, crippled by a villainous market operator, Figlia, so all those plans to settle down to a normal life suddenly have to take second place to the getting of vengeance; that money Figlia screwed out of the old boy is going to get screwed back out of him. It’s a tale of rather small-scale villainy, this, Figlia is no super gangster, he seems happy to just be an unpleasant fruit vendor who likes money, and who likes gouging that money out of his clients and out of the long haul drivers bringing him goods. But we’re not allowed to feel much sympathy for the latter, as the film presents them as being similarly crass and ruthless towards the growers they’re buying from to begin with, not to mention towards each other; the film is distinctly thin on actually likeable characters. Conte’s character here struck me as not dissimilar to Eddie Rico in the other film, a basically good guy who’s somewhat out of his depth in the face of even such low-level badness as Figlia; like The Brothers Rico, this struck me as an OK film in which Conte is much the best thing about it. I know Thieves Highway has a considerable classic reputation, and it’s certainly got good things in it, I just didn’t think it was exactly a masterpiece.

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