**** out of 5
Dick Powell is a freshly pardoned convict, wrongly accused of being involved in a bank job, and he's searching for the real crooks who let him take the fall. Unlike many noir films, this character's arc begins where most end- with the twist of fate that sent them to prison despite all attempts to escape. But where the plot goes from here makes it a very interesting and engaging story. Digging for answers leads Powell's character deeper into darkness before he is finally able to shine light on the dark corners of his own past and uncover the creeping vermin that crawl about there.
Richard Erdman is an opportunistic but crippled (physically and emotionally - the recently ended World War had a deep effect on the themes and world of film noir, and especially on its characters) fellow ex-marine who fakes an alibi for Powell to get him out, on the chance that he actually was guilty, and will split the still-undiscovered loot with him.
Rhonda Fleming plays Powell's old flame who married his best friend after his incarceration, only to have that husband also end up imprisoned for the same heist. Her role is particularly nuanced and she makes an excellent noir femme- with secrets of her own that will bode ill for Powell's search for answers.
William Conrad is always an entertaining screen presence, and here he plays the crime boss who Powell suspects has the answers he seeks, and he takes quite a few brutal interrogations at an increasingly desperate Powell's hands, including an especially tense game of Russian roullette.
Regis Toomey represents the law in the film, and suits the part very well, playing detective Cobb as a level-headed, honest cop who is nevertheless pragmatic about the limits of the law's ability to solve all mysteries. He knows he must depend ultimately upon fate to bring the real criminals to justice, and he is willing to wait there with the cuffs or a body bag to pick them up when it does.
Part of the fun of watching film noir is spotting familiar faces in the minor parts, usually uncredited; those actors who were never really big, but turn up in so many films that did, that they grow familiar and add a fun color to the black and white world of noir. This film has a few notably minor players who you will see frequently in noir as tough guys, touts, bartenders, bookies, and mugs- guys like Lou Lubin, Jay Adler, and Benny Burt, or women like Jean Porter, Gloria Saunders, and Kathleen Freeman (later familiar as a commedienne working with stars like Jerry Lewis).