Criss Cross (film)
Criss Cross is a 1949 American crime film noir directed by Robert Siodmak starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea, from Don Tracy's novel of the same name. This black-and-white film was shot partly on location in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. The film was written by Daniel Fuchs. Franz Planer's cinematography creates a black-and-white film noir world. Miklós Rózsa scored the film's soundtrack. It was remade as The Underneath in 1995.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Siodmak|
|Produced by||Michael Kraike|
|Screenplay by||Daniel Fuchs|
|Based on||Criss Cross|
by Don Tracy
Yvonne De Carlo
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||Ted J. Kent|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Reuniting with director Siodmak after their success with Ernest Hemingway's The Killers, Burt Lancaster plays Steve Thompson, a man who seals his dark fate when he returns to Los Angeles to find his ex-wife Anna Dundee (Yvonne DeCarlo) eager to rekindle their love against all better judgment. He resumes his old job as a driver at an armored-truck company.
Although Anna marries mobster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), she encourages an affair with Thompson. To deflect suspicion of the affair, Thompson leads Dundee into a daylight armored-truck robbery, only to "criss 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 are to meet and start a new life with the stolen money. But seeing Thompson's wounded condition Anna shocks Thompson 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 finds them through the driver's "criss cross", and kills both Anna and Thompson.
- Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson
- Yvonne De Carlo as Anna
- Dan Duryea as Slim Dundee
- Stephen McNally as Det. Lt. Pete Ramirez
- Esy Morales as Orchestra Leader
- Tom Pedi as Vincent
- Percy Helton as Frank
- Alan Napier as Finchley
- Griff Barnett as Pop
- Meg Randall as Helen
- Richard Long as Slade Thompson
- Joan Miller as The Lush
- Edna Holland as Mrs. Thompson
- John Doucette as Walt
- Marc Krah as Mort
- James O'Rear as Waxie
- John Skins Miller as Midget
Criss Cross features the screen debut of Tony Curtis (then known as Anthony Curtis), who briefly appears 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.
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.
When released, 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."
The film was reissued by Universal-International in 1959.
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."
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."
Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller lists Criss Cross as #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 ever time I see it. De Carlo in the parking lot pleading straight to the camera might be noir's defining moment."
- Edgar Allan Poe Awards: Edgar, Best Motion Picture, Daniel Fuchs and Don Tracy (novel); 1950.
- Brian Greene. "Lost Classics of Noir: Criss-Cross by Don Tracy". criminalelement.com. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- "The 100 Best Film Noirs of All Time". Paste. August 9, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
- Criss Cross on IMDb.
- The New York Times. Film review, "Burt Lancaster Same Old Tough Guy," March 12, 1949. Last accessed: March 22, 2008.
- Boxoffice Barometer (1959)
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews,. film review, October 26, 2004. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.
- Kehr, Dave. Chicago Reader, film review, 1996-2008. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.
- Muller, Eddie. Top 25 Noir Films, Last accessed: November 11, 2019.
- Criss Cross at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: March 23, 2008.