T-Men, a 1948 film starring Dennis O’Keefe and directed by Anthony Mann, is a noir procedural singed with greed and paranoia. In the style of a documentary the film follows the activities of two treasury agents who go undercover to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring run by the mob. The prologue includes a curious warning not to reproduce U.S. currency, then comes a rather lengthy exposition as we get to know the agents, not just who they are but also who they'll pretend to be. Things pick up around the halfway point, with chairs thrown, ears boxed (both ears simultaneously no less), a mean uppercut, murder by Turkish bath steam, and so on. The tension builds to a satisfying end. As far as 40s cop thrillers go this one is great for its noir shots and has an extra layer or two of complexity. The plot held my attention, with its sharper edges compared to, say, Naked City (also released in 1948). Or maybe Naked City tried too hard to be some palatable mix of gritty and cute, while T-Men skips the silly ba-dum-ching one-liners and gets down to brass tacks. Doing this, T-Men is more realistic and feels more sure of itself somehow. Also interesting is its 1940s portrayal of the Italian mafia, and two of the film's baddies are girls!
Gun Crazy (a.k.a. Deadly Is the Female) is a thrill ride of a film, directed by Joseph H. Lewis and released in 1950. It stars Irish actress Peggy Cummins and American John Dall, a perfect fit for the cold-hearted femme fatale Annie Laurie Starr and gun-obsessed, star-crossed Bart Tare. Bart gets busted stealing a gun from a pawn shop as a kid, is sent to reform school, and years later lands a job with a traveling carnival. Annie works there too, also as a sharpshooter, and the pair hit it off, much to the chagrin of their employer, who's as bewitched by her icy eyes as Bart is. He sacks them, before payday no less, and the lovers hit the road with little cash between them. When that money dries up, Annie gives Bart an ultimatum: either join her in a life of hold-ups and running from the law, or take a hike. Reluctantly he does as she says, and their state-to-state crime spree takes off.
Some great shots in Gun Crazy and also an incredible long take, shot from the back seat of a car and capturing Bart and Annie's drive up to their next heist, an exchange with a cop, and the getaway. The film has a thrilling pace and flows as fast as its car chases, roller-coaster ride, and foot pursuits. Definitely a must-see for noir fans.