T-Men – Directed by Anthony Mann. Undercover Operation Drama. Two Treasury agents disguise themselves as gangsters to expose a forgery ring. 92 minutes Black and White 1947.
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Supposed to be noir, but not noir, although filmed like all get-out by John Alton who makes something baroquely mad out of a routine story. Dennis O’Keefe plays the government agent going into mufti as a gangster to uncover a counterfeit operation. Having once seen his Hamlet, it’s good to see Alfred Ryder on screen as the sidekick. Wallace Ford plays The Schemer and sweats a bucket doing so. He’s really wonderful; he always is. The story is supposedly authenticated by the presence of the actual TreasuryDepartment head, but this only lends a fussy lecture to the piece. Clearly more money has been poured into this than in previous Mann films of this era, and it pays off in sets and set decoration. O’Keefe is a decent bloke surrounded by violence. (Noir is not about decent blokes.) Mann is more interested in the violence than the decency, and, even when O’Keefe finally shoots down the rat with many shots, Mann brings neither moral nor emotional suasion to the deed. But Mann is a director of remarkable poise in the face of danger. He will keep at it until the deed is done.