A jailbird on the lam in ‘Raw Deal’


“Raw Deal” plays for one night on Wednesday, April 17. It is the second in the series of three remastered Film Noir Classics selected by Paul Karasik, Eisner Awardwinning New Yorker cartoonist.

Featuring Anthony Mann as its director and John Alton as the iconic Noir cinematographer, “Raw Deal” was released in 1948 at the peak of Noir film popularity. It tells the story of prison escapee Joe Sullivan, played by Dennis O’Keefe. He also stars in “T-Men,” first in the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center Noir classics series selected by Karasik.

The audience meets Joe at his prison interview with idealistic social worker Ann Martin, played by Marsha Hunt. Joe’s gangster girlfriend Pat Regan, played by Claire Trevor, must wait until Ann finishes her interview. In this way the romantic triangle is initially referenced as a key motif of the film.

Gangster boss Rick Coyle, played by Raymond Burr, has arranged for the get-away car in Joe’s prison escape with help from Pat. Pat and Joe plan to sail to Panama and start a new life, but a bullet hole in the getaway car’s gas tank during the escape renders it unusable. Instead, the two grab a station wagon from a gas station and head for Oscar’s Tavern, Rick’s hideout in the hills with his aide Fantail, played by John Ireland.

This plot development helps explain how Rick has been Joe’s boss and as well as being responsible for Joe’s time in prison. Joe wants to collect the $50,000 Rick owes him, but Rick wants nothing to do with him. Director Mann demonstrates Rick’s nefariousness when Rick throws a flaming dessert at his girlfriend who bumps into him while dancing. In contrast, Joe’s oft-repeated line is “The fresh air I always wanted,” which characterizes him.

Ann is traveling in the car with Joe and Pat, all of whom are developing the conflict between her and Pat. They rest in a campfire in the woods, when a law enforcement officer on horseback shows up and Ann shows her attraction to Joe by fibbing about her friendship with Pat.

The three next head for a Crescent City motel to meet Rick. The plot evolves further with Joe showing his attraction to Ann by kissing her — a rare event in this era. The underlying theme portrayed at this point suggests Joe wants to be on the right side of the law, further shown in the fight that breaks out later between Joe and Rick.

“Raw Deal” illustrates the power and complexity of classic Noir in its production values. They emphasize the mise-en-scene’s atmospheric darkness and low-angle shots, supporting its bleak, fog-ridden plot. Viewers should not miss this remastered version of a classic Noir film. They are invited to have a glass of pinot noir and dark chocolate as part of the presentation.

Information and tickets for “Raw Deal” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.