Josh Olson on Noir! kicks off this week at Trailers from Hell, with screenwriter Olson introducing Fred Zinneman’s “Act of Violence,” starring Ryan, Heflin, a world-weary Mary Astor and a 21-year-old Janet Leigh.
Moviegoers seeking easy answers should steer clear of Fred
Zinneman’s hardboiled thriller from 1948, ACT OF VIOLENCE. Zinneman uses the
then recent horrors of World War II as the springboard for this complex
morality play starring Van Heflin and Robert Ryan as two ex-POWs whose shared
humanity has been corrupted by the Nazi prison camps. Just how corrupt they are
is the subject of Robert Richards’ screenplay (from the story by Collier
Young). The cast, including Janet Leigh and Phyllis Thaxter, is interesting
from top to bottom and features a vivid turn from Mary Astor as a prostitute
who gives Heflin shelter.