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Criss Cross (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Criss Cross
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Siodmak
Screenplay byDaniel Fuchs
Based onCriss Cross
1934 novel
by Don Tracy[1]
Produced byMichael Kraike
StarringBurt Lancaster
Yvonne De Carlo
Dan Duryea
CinematographyFranz Planer
Edited byTed J. Kent
Music byMiklós Rózsa
Color processBlack and white
Distributed byUniversal-International
Release dates
  • January 19, 1949 (1949-01-19) (Los Angeles)
  • February 4, 1949 (1949-02-04) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

Criss Cross is a 1949 American film noir crime film starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea, directed by Robert Siodmak and written by Daniel Fuchs based on Don Tracy's 1934 novel of the same name.[2] This black-and-white film was shot partly on location in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Miklós Rózsa scored the film's soundtrack.[3] It was remade as The Underneath in 1995.[4]

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Steve Thompson returns to Los Angeles looking for his ex-wife Anna, eager to rekindle a new romance with her against all better judgment. He resumes his old job as a driver at an armored-truck company.

Anna is now married to mobster Slim Dundee, but continues a clandestine affair with Thompson. To deflect any hint of their affair, Thompson leads Dundee into a daylight armored-truck robbery caper, only to have Dundee double cross him when the crime is pulled off. Wounded during the botched robbery, Thompson is recovering in a hospital and considered the hero who wounded the robbers. Dundee has sent a man to the hospital to bring Thompson to him, but Thompson bribes the man to drive him to Anna's hiding place, where they're to meet and start a new life with the stolen money. But seeing Thompson's wounded condition and fearing that Dundee will track them down, Anna shocks him with her "criss cross" by telling him that she will take the money and leave him behind. Thompson is trying to reason with Anna when Dundee arrives. He assumed Thompson would bribe the driver and followed them. He kills both Anna and Thompson, but as he turns to leave, sirens fill the air.


Production notes

Criss Cross features the screen debut of Tony Curtis (then known as Anthony Curtis), who briefly appears as an uncredited extra in a key scene at the Round-Up Bar dancing with De Carlo to "Jungle Fantasy" performed by Esy Morales and his Rhumba Band.

The production nearly derailed when producer Mark Hellinger died suddenly before filming began. Reportedly, Lancaster was unhappy with the way Siodmak and Fuchs had reworked Hellinger's idea of a racetrack heist into a fatal romantic triangle.[citation needed]


Criss Cross was shot around downtown Los Angeles, beginning with an aerial panorama that ends at a nightclub just north of downtown. Lancaster's character lives with his mother at a house on Hill Street, just above the north entrance of the short Hill Street Tunnel at Temple Street in the Court Hill section of Bunker Hill. The tunnel and the hill above it (including the house) were razed in 1955 for expansion of the Civic Center and a new Los Angeles County Courthouse on Hill Street, which can often be seen in episodes of Perry Mason. For the planning of the heist, Siodmak used the exterior and interiors of the rambling, rundown Sunshine Apartments on the steep Third Street steps between Hill and Olive, just opposite the Angels Flight funicular, seen in the background through the windows of the hotel room. This area of Bunker Hill was a favorite of noir directors, and unfortunately it was all torn down in the 1960s. There is also an extended scene inside and outside Union Station on Alameda.


Critical Response

The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, writing, "A tough, mildly exciting melodrama about gangsters and a dame named Anna who 'gets into the blood' of a guy named Steve and causes him no end of trouble...In many ways Criss Cross is a suspenseful action picture, due to the resourceful directing of Robert Siodmak. But it also is tedious and plodding at times, due partly to Mr. Siodmak's indulgence of a script that is verbose, redundant and imitative. However, the writers should be credited with having invested the old triangle-gangster formula with a couple of fresh if not exactly revolutionary twists."[5]

The film was reissued by Universal-International in 1959.[6]


In 2004, film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "Robert Siodmak ... directs this cynical film noir of obsessive love and betrayal. It's 1940s film noir at its most influential as far as style goes, that is further enhanced by the beautiful dark photography of Frank Planer, the tight script by Daniel Fuchs, and the taut pacing by Siodmak. It's based on a story by Don Tracy ... Siodmak keeps the suspense at a feverish pitch, and the characterizations are well drawn out. Criss Cross is one of the great examples of 1940s film noir at its most tragic. A must see film for fans of the genre."[7]

Dave Kehr, film critic for the Chicago Reader, lauded the film and wrote, "Robert Siodmak was one of the most influential stylists of the 40s, helping to create, in films such as Phantom Lady and The Killers, the characteristic look of American film noir. But most of his films have nothing more than their pictorial qualities to recommend them—Criss Cross being one of the few exceptions, an archly noir story replete with triple and quadruple crosses, leading up to one of the most shockingly cynical endings in the whole genre."[8]

Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller lists Criss Cross as No. 2 in his Top 25 Noir Films saying: "Stupidly, I used to think there was something missing at the core. But it keeps getting better every time I see it. De Carlo in the parking lot pleading straight to the camera might be noir's defining moment."[9]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 92% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 12 reviews.[10]



  • Edgar Allan Poe Awards: Edgar, Best Motion Picture, Daniel Fuchs and Don Tracy (novel); 1950.


The film was remade as The Underneath directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1995.[4]


  1. ^ Greene, Brian (31 October 2014). "Lost Classics of Noir: Criss-Cross by Don Tracy". Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  2. ^ "The 100 Best Film Noirs of All Time". Paste. August 9, 2015. Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  3. ^ Criss Cross at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  4. ^ The New York Times. Film review, "Burt Lancaster Same Old Tough Guy," March 12, 1949. Last accessed: March 22, 2008.
  5. ^ Boxoffice Barometer (1959)
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, October 26, 2004. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Kehr, Dave. Chicago Reader, film review, 1996–2008. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.
  8. ^ Muller, Eddie. Top 25 Noir Films, Last accessed: November 11, 2019.
  9. ^ Criss Cross at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: December 9, 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 18 March 2024, at 22:38
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