Time was when Roy Del Ruth was capable of turning in hard-as-nails crime pictures, which he did, most notably, with the first screen version of The Maltese Falcon (1931), starring Ricardo Cortez} and Bebe Daniels. But by the mid-1940s, as he began producing as well as directing his films, Del Ruth's work took a very sharp turn toward sentimentalism. In the right kind of vehicle, such as the whimsical holiday story It Happened On Fifth Avenue, this was not a problem -- quite the contrary, it was an enhancement. But on Red Light, it hampers any establishment of mood created by the fine camera work of Bert Glennon, which is mostly dark and noir-ish, and filled with seeming menace at all of the right moments. That the "real" point of this movie, for producer/director Del Ruth, was the battle for the immortal soul of George Raft's character, is only further emphasized by Dimitri Tiomkin's score, a lush, busy, and involved body of music that gets positively over-wrought in the final minutes of the movie. There's actually not a bad little story here, that might have worked had all of the hands dialed the intensity back a bit and tried for some subtlety -- on the plus side, it is refreshing to see Barton MacLane play a character on the side of the angels for a change, and Harry Morgan steals a lot of his scenes from the other players as a vicious hood. He and Raymond Burr keep Red Light from going too far off the deep end, but it's still nowhere near as edgy as it might have been with this story to work with. Del Ruth could have delivered something as complex and troubling as, say, Mark Robson's Edge of Doom -- but he missed the mark.
by Bruce Eder review