Broderick Crawford won the Oscar for Best Performance for ALL THE KING'S MEN(Columbia, 1949). This crime drama, THE MOB, was undoubtedly planned as a vehicle tailor made for him.
We see that this film is classified as Film Noir, of which it does seem to have the dark, brooding and the impossible situations for there to be any successful conclusion/happy ending. But this ending is sort of up beat, and it's even one that would fit as the fade-out finale of one of the Chester Morris/Columbia Pictures' BOSTON BLACKIE entries.
The beginning of the movie is done in a somewhat slowly revealing, deliberate and methodical scene that keeps the audience guessing about the integrity of main character,Police Detective,Johnny Damico(Broderick Crawford). His quick paced banter with a jeweler over a diamond ring and its value is just vague enough to lead us to believing It to be some sort of shady deal. Ultimately we learn that Det. Damico and Mr.Jeweler are well acquainted, even friends. The Detective is shown to be a man and an Officr of the Law who has good, decent beliefs and behaviour.
Quite by accident, Det. Damico runs into an on-view shooting. The shooter identifies self as a Police Detective Lieutennant and presents Shield and ID to Damico. It is dark, rainy and the "Lieutennant" manages to split from the scene.
After all is found out, the Police Commissioner assigns the Detective to go underground to ferret out the cause of recent killings, including including that of the real Police Lt. whose shield was used by the unknown killer.
At this point, the story really takes off as Damico feigns the role of a trouble making bad guy from New Orleans. The undercover role takes him to the Waterfront and taking the position as a Longshoreman.
Now at this point, it appears that the film was a story of Labor Racketeering and the corruption that flows from the scene of such an unsavory operation. It sort of resembles, ever so briefly, the not yet made ON THE WATERFRONT(Columbia,1954).
But no dice, once again the Director and production shifts gears and the storyline skews toward resemblance to the Detective Stories that populated the Pulp Magazines and those Radio Dramas which were adapted from the Pulps.
Once again, we see a variant on the theme as the new source of inspiration appears to be the Comic Book cops-n-robbers story as exemplified by Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT.* The chase and the eventual revealing of the Hide-Out HQ and, especially the true identity of the Underworld big shot are especially reminiscent of an Eisner written and illustrated story.
But, then again, we see another aspect of this story in the inclusion of some ultra modern,"Super Scientific",electronic crime-bustin' technology. They seem to take a queue from the James Cagney starring film, WHITE HEAT (Warner Brothers 1949). At a late point in the story, tracking a vehicle via the use of infra red light and pinpointing a location by radio Tri Angulation is introduced.
The film has an interesting cast of people who DON'T look like movie stars. They look very ordinary and much like a cast of characters that you would see in the real world. But that does not mean that there was not talent on display. The Acting Abilities of the cast members are super abundant, as shown by the rise in prominence of so many of the players in the subsequent years.
So, we are treated to performances by the likes of: Mary Kierman, Richard Kiley,Otto Hulett,Matt Crowley**,Neville Brand, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Frank DeKova, Lawrence Dobkin and others.
And, please don't you think that it the purpose of this writer to pan or degrade this film, far from it. The only thing that I can say is: "Hey 'MOB', where have you been all my Life?"
* Much like THE SPIRIT, this offers its moments of levity and the Story is propelled along at a good clip, powered by some clever, witty and even funny dialog.
** Is this the same Matt Crowley who enjoyed a fine career as a Radio Actor, portraying among others, BUCK ROGERS?
ADDENDUM: 9/23/09. The answer is (after all this time is a most emphatic "YES!" It turns out that the multi-media actor was active in Radio (BUCK ROGERS), the Movies (THE MOB), Broadway Stage (THE FRONT PAGE)as well as a multitude of TV Shots too numerous to list here.