I recently watched Criss Cross, a 1949 movie directed by Robert Siodmak and produced by Universal. This movie has all the elements of classic film noir, including a good plot, mystery, romance and suspense. The term film noir was first coined by French critics and it literally means dark film. Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder are names of directors that stand out when one talks about film noir pioneers. These films delve deeply into the intricacies of human nature and several of them are a true testament to the director’s skilful abilities. A few of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies fall into the film noir genre such as Vertigo (1958) and Strangers on a Train (1951). Of course, there is the all time classic, Double Indemnity (1944), directed by Billy Wilder or Fritz Lang’s, The Big Heat (1953).
Typical film noirs might have voice over narrations and are usually shot with subdued lighting, essentially using silhouettes as an artwork. Of course a solid script and exciting dialogues provide ample sustenance. And then there is almost always some excellent score with haunting music that forms the centerpiece of the movie.
The cinematography in Criss Cross is superb and you get to see some long bygone landmarks, including the Union Station in L.A. The story revolves around the dashing, young Burt Lancaster who returns back to his parents’ home, after a series of odd jobs and a failed marriage to the stunning Yvonne De Carlo, where he runs into her again, with unintended consequences. The beauty of film noir is that you can never predict how the story will twist and turn and what hidden gems you may find. While the plot in Criss Cross is quite taut and moves at an even pace, I would rate this movie half a notch lower than say, Out of the Past (1947) or Human Desire (1954). But the delightful part of Criss Cross is a mesmerizing piece of Rumba music played by Esy Morales and his band. This piece is magical, nay, mystical as you watch Morales create some enchanting tunes that transport you to a different world!