Classic film noir screening at the Film Center


“T-Men” plays at the M.V. Film Center on Wednesday, April 10. It’s the first in a series of three restored film noirs playing at the Film Center and chosen by Paul Karasik, an Eisner Award winner and New Yorker cartoonist. Karasik will provide an introduction to “T-Men.” Two other noir films shot by cinematographer John Alton will be screened as part of this series.

Film noir represents a genre of films, especially popular in the ’40s, in which the mood is one of fatalism, menace, darkness, and pessimism. It was a term used by French critics, and applied to American thrillers and detective stories. Directors working in this genre included Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.

Released in 1947, “T-Men” fills the bill for these films. It’s a combination of documentary and fiction, opening with a commentary by the actual U.S. Treasury intelligence chief, Elmer Lincoln Irey. The film is directed by Anthony Mann, and stars Dennis O’Keefe in his first major role. In another actual statement, the Treasury confirms the film’s use of Treasury credentials and warned that no other use is allowed.

The six units, “shock troops,” that Irey identifies are 1. Intelligence; 2. Customs; 3. Narcotics; 4. Secret Service; 5. Alcohol/Tax; and 6. Coast Guard. Sixty-four percent of federal prisoners were caught by the Treasury, according to the Treasury.

The case in the film’s fictionalized version is called “The Shanghai Paper Case.” In it, two Secret Servicemen are chosen to work undercover to find the Vantucci criminals in Detroit — they use fake revenue stamps for hijacked liquor and counterfeit money — and convict them.

Secret agents Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) as Vannie Harrigan, and Anthony Genero (Alfred Ryder) as Tony Galvani start out by researching the criminal gang. Next they infiltrate the Vantucci gang by claiming to be members of the moribund River Gang.

The two secret agents learn about a crook named “the Schemer,” who is the gang’s West Coast liaison, so O’Brien follows them to Los Angeles. He searches Chinatown unsuccessfully for the Schemer. Then O’Brien discovers that the Schemer goes to steam baths, and looks for him there.

Next, he goes to a craps game and passes a phony bill, but it’s discovered. O’Brien is beaten up and ends up in an alley. He recovers his counterfeit bill and shows it to the Schemer, arguing that it comes from China, and is better quality than what the Vantucci gang has been using. O’Brien and Genero continue their misadventures, but along the way Genero is murdered.

“T-Men” is classic film noir and Mann’s first success in the genre. In fact, “T-Men” was partially funded by organized crime, and became a big success, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Sound. Viewers are invited to the lobby beforehand for a glass of Pinot Noir and dark chocolate.

Information and tickets to “T-Men” are available at