The noir soil is rich with subtext, from the haunting memory of WWII (all the men are scarred vets disgusted with the world they fought for) to ideas about lost identity and squandered purpose inherent in the crime plot itself. But it's the surface perfection that's stunning – this is a noir directed and written by four scribes (plus Karlson and Payne without credit) who knew for real about risk, anger, gambling, poverty and a pitiless post-war America.
While it lacks the doomed cynicism and inner demons that mark the very finest noirs, this film boasts black and white photography by George E. Diskant, who also lensed Nicholas Ray's classic noir THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. It's got delicious hardboiled dialogue by George Bruce and Harry Essex, and music by low-budget maestro Paul Sawtell. Plus, you've got to admire Payne's portrayal of a basically good guy "leading with his chin" and "moving blind," yet always keeping his cool under pressure.