Sunday, March 15, 2009
Day Fifty: Kansas City Confidential (1952) - Rank 4/5
I received this DVD free from my friend Tobin about seven years ago, and believe it or not, I'm just now getting around to watching it. I was hesitant of watching it primarily because it was put out by Alpha Video, an indicator that the film was not only public domain, but the print quality would probably be low-grade. Not that I have anything against public domain films per se...it's just that typically if a movie is even halfway decent, a studio will try to hold on to or obtain its rights. Imagine my shock when I was genuinely impressed with what "Kansas City Confidential" had to offer. It makes me wish that a studio would remaster the film, much like Kino International did for other public domain classics like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or "Metropolis"
The story kicks off with a perfect bank heist. The robbers wear masks before and after the robbery to conceal their identities from one another - a move orchestrated by the ringleader (Preston Foster). A young Lee Van Cleef and an even younger Jack Elam play two of the three rogues. They split up and agree to reconvene later to divvy up the loot. Meanwhile, ex-con Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is falsely accused of masterminding the caper. He's soon freed by the police, but it doesn't matter, because at that point, he's lost his job and what little reputation he had is ruined. So he sets out for revenge, trying to work his way up the chain of command to the boss. While he has an advantage over the other members of the gang (they never knew one another's identities, so he can easily take one of their places), he also suffers from the fact that none of them can give him any leads for the same reason. It's a complex plot, filled with a number of twists and set-ups, and is exceedingly well-written for an obscure film noir. Certainly many aspects of the film feel like they were inspiration for Tarantino's "Kill Bill." I suppose my only regret with this film is that I didn't partake in it sooner.
It's public domain, so you can watch the whole film for free here.