The film begins in the sticky heat of a New York subway train. Candy (Jean Peters), her bored face covered with a film of perspiration, is being eyed up by two men (we later find out they’re surveillance men, so their voyeurism is strictly professional).
Then Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) shuffles toward her in the carriage, and his invasion is bolder still – maintaining an insolent stare as he fishes her purse from her handbag.
Director Sam Fuller’s in-your-face thriller finds the pickpocket becoming the unwitting spare part in an anti-communist sting – unbeknown to Candy, her purse contains microfilm that American intelligence hopes will lead them to a network of communists.
Widmark is unforgettable as the snarling, self-interested hoodlum caught up in political manoeuvring that he neither knows nor cares about while Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter) is one of film noir’s most tragic supporting characters, the professional stool pigeon who knows all the angles but is undone by a fatal sense of loyalty.
Captain Dan Tiger