Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Edward Dmytryk|
|Produced by||Adrian Scott|
|Screenplay by||John Paxton
|Story by||John Wexley|
|Music by||Roy Webb
|Cinematography||Harry J. Wild|
|Editing by||Joseph Noriega|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Running time||102 minutes|
After the end of World War II, a former P.O.W., Canadian RCAF flyer Laurence Gerard (Powell), returns to France to discover who ordered the killing of his bride of only 20 days, a member of the French Resistance. His father-in-law Etienne Rougon identifies Vichy collaborator Marcel Jarnac. He supposedly died in 1943, but Rougon has strong doubts. Jarnac was so careful about maintaining his anonymity, there is not even a description of him on record. Gerard finds the partially burned front page of a dossier on Jarnac and an envelope addressed to Madame Jarnac in the rubble of the home of Jarnac's closest associate. The return address on the envelope indirectly allows Gerard to track the widow to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When he arrives, Gerard is met at the airport by Melchior Incza (Walter Slezak), a stranger who appears to know all too much about him. The suspicious Canadian initially rejects Incza's offer of help, but cannot turn down his invitation to a party hosted by wealthy businessman Tomas Camargo (Steven Geray) for the opportunity to mingle with Mme Jarnac's social set. There he meets Camargo's uncle, Manuel Santana (Morris Carnovsky), and the widow herself (Micheline Cheirel).
When Gerard later questions Mme Jarnac in her hotel room, she refuses to cooperate, so he starts openly following her. Santana asks him to desist, for reasons he will not divulge. Later, Gerard finds a suspicious valet, Diego (Jack La Rue), tidying up his hotel room at an odd hour.
Eventually, Mme Jarnac agrees to provide him with the information he desires. A letter is delivered to him informing him that Jarnac is leaving the country that night, and the address where "Ernest Dubois" (Edgar Barrier) is staying. Gerard is only stopped from shooting the wrong man in cold blood by the timely intervention of Santana and Diego. It turns out that they are after not only Jarnac, but his secret Nazi organization as well. The letter was a forgery; Mme Jarnac is an innocent woman paid to marry a man she has never seen.
Gerard fools Incza into believing he has the full dossier compiled by Jarnac's associate. Incza breaks into the hotel safe, but the papers are not there. He then arranges for Gerard to be called to a supposed meeting with Camargo, while he searches Gerard's hotel room. When he is interrupted by Diego, again posing as a valet, he shoots him. In the meantime, Gerard has been kept occupied by Senora Camargo, who will do her best to seduce him, and to make him forget his French-Resistance wife for her life of luxury and easy vice. Gerard kisses her but then declares again his love for his wife: "Her teeth were crooked and she was too thin", and leaves, telling her to tell her husband he couldn't wait: "I got bored".
Returning to his room to find Diego's body on the floor, Gerard is taken in by the police as a murder suspect, but a waiter verifies he was with Senora Camargo (Nina Vale) at the time. Still, Gerard is given 48 hours to leave the country.
When Incza tells him that Jarnac will be seeing Camargo at his old office, Gerard decides to stake out a place Mme Jarnac recalls was once their meeting place. It is a trap. Gerard is captured, and Jarnac (Luther Adler) finally makes his appearance. Incza confirms he works for Jarnac, but is killed for talking too much. Gerard is to die as well, with Camargo as a witness that the two men killed each other. Camargo objects to becoming involved, but Jarnac threatens him with a paper in his possession. Gerard seizes the distraction to overpower Jarnac. He punches Jarnac repeatedly, and is only stopped by the arrival of Santana and Dubois. To their disappointment, Jarnac is dead, but Gerard shows them the paper detailing Jarnac's connection to Camargo; Santana states there appears to be enough there to expose the entire organization.
While he still has the upper hand, Jarnac makes a political speech, on how America's failure to see that their injustice across the world and the resulting poverty of nations (as happened in Germany after World War 1) means that there will always be people like him.
- Dick Powell as Laurence Gerard
- Walter Slezak as Melchior Incza
- Micheline Cheirel as Mme. Madeleine Jarnac (Laurent)
- Nina Vale as Senora Camargo
- Morris Carnovsky as Manuel Santana
- Edgar Barrier as DuBois, insurance agent
- Steven Geray as Senor Tomas Camargo
- Jack La Rue as Diego
- Gregory Gaye as Perchon, Belgian banker and Jarnac's accomplice
- Luther Adler as Marcel Jarnac
The film production involved four men associated with the film who would later be blacklisted in the 1950s: Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott, Morris Carnovsky, and Luther Adler. The political argument against Fascism, which reflected the idealistic political views of the four blacklisted filmmakers, is an important part of the film.
Film critic Bosley Crowther lauded the film and the acting, writing, "Cornered is a drama of smoldering vengeance and political scheming which builds purposefully and with graduating tension to a violent climax, a committing of murder that is as thrilling and brutal as any you are likely to encounter in a month of movie-going. The story, which wanders through England, France and Switzerland, eventually centers in Buenos Aires, where apparently all Europe's escaped Fascists are quietly plotting a return to power. Although the narrative is a bit too obviously contrived. Edward Dmytryk, the director, has squeezed every ounce of suspense and excitement out of the material at hand. All of the players are in there pitching with great zest, and Walter Slezak is especially noteworthy as the ruthless and unscrupulous gent around whose flabby bulk most of the intrigue is spun. Micheline Cheirel brings a wistful charm to the role of the mysterious lady who poses as the supposedly deceased collaborationist's wife, and lesser roles are well done by Morris Carnovsky, Jack LaRue and Luther Adler. Cornered may not be perfect, but it still is a satisfying entertainment."
In a review of the film, Channel 4 wrote, "Consolidating his transformation from soft tenor to hard-boiled private eye in Dmytryk's Murder My Sweet the year before, Powell is even more dour as a tough, cynical loner in search of the man who killed his French wife during the Second World War...The noir atmosphere is sustained well throughout."
The Classic Film Guide calls the film a mess in their review, "The plot is so confusing, with so many twists and turns, you'll get whiplash trying to keep up, if you're even interested enough to try. Plus, if you've ever read a Robert Ludlum novel (particularly The Rhinemann Exchange), you'll be sorely disappointed in the intelligence (and one dimensional nature) of Powell's character, and the route he takes to enact his revenge."
Warner Bros. released the film on DVD on July 13, 2010, in its Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5.
- "Cornered". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- Cornered at the Internet Movie Database.
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 3, 2001. Last accessed: February 25, 2008.
- Crother, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, December 26, 1945. Last accessed: February 25, 2008.
- Channel Four. Film review, 2008. Last accessed: February 25, 2008.
- Classic Film Guide. Film review, 2008. Last accessed: February 25, 2008.
- Abrams, Simon. "Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 5." SlantMagazine.com. July 20, 2010. Accessed 2011-11-19.
- Cornered at the Internet Movie Database
- Cornered at allmovie
- Cornered at the TCM Movie Database
- Cornered film review at Turner Classic Movies by Scott McGee
- Cornered trailer at YouTube