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llegal (1955) is the third version of The Mouthpiece, a '30s play and film about an esteemed district attorney who falls from grace but rebounds as a spellbinding defense attorney much-sought-after by the criminal class. It was probably the best part Edward G. Robinson had in the '50s, and he's all the reason we need for watching. But the role and the story predated noir (the previous renditions came out in 1932 and 1940), and this movie, for all intents and purposes, postdates noir. In addition, sad to say, it's an artifact from that era when Warner Bros.' movies had started looking like the studio's TV shows. By contrast, The Big Steal (1949) springs from the heart of the classic noir era, was produced for perhaps the most noir-friendly of studios, RKO, and even boasts the costars and screenwriter of the sublime Out of the Past--which is to say, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Daniel Mainwaring (a.k.a. "Geoffrey Homes"). The whirlwind first reel plops us right in the middle of several chases, with as many switcheroos of allegiance and direction, in pursuit of an "it" that won't be specified till some time later. All nimbly managed by director Don Siegel, on location in Mexico yet, and briskly over with in 72 minutes.

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WA115026 Illegal/Big Steal DVD (1955/Edward G Robinson/1949/Robert Mitchum) $20.97 $17.99