The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Film Noir  |   Run Time - 63 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The Devil Thumbs a Ride is a gripping, mesmerizing noir-ish excursion that succeeds in spite of itself. Definitely a "B" movie, Devil's more-or-less hour running time is filled with stumbling blocks that should keep it from being a stand out -- and yet most viewers are more than willing to overlook its flaws because of the undeniable attraction it exerts. Chief among its distinctions is the fact that it is one of the most cold-blooded films of its time. The villain of the piece, a sociopathic killer, is the one that engages the audience the most; he fascinates from his first moment on the screen, and the audience finds itself totally drawn in by him. In most films where this happens, the "hero" would be not far behind the villain in terms of engaging audience support, but in Devil, it's the "bad girl" who comes in second in terms of audience interest. The "good" couple barely register, and when they do it's only because viewers know that they're supposed to be on their side and feel obligated to give them some support. Part of this is due to the actors, as Lawrence Tierney as Morgan is absolutely electrifying, giving a terrifying, at times over-the-top but always captivating performance that gives Devil its sizzle. Betty Lawford can't match him -- and her character is not bad in the same way his is -- but she adds some nice splashes of vinegar to her role. Felix E. Faust directs with an emphasis on tension, but makes plenty of room for comedic touches as well; he tries to get too much into the short running time, but this gives Devil a somewhat relentless quality that suits it. The ending is ridiculous, but up until then, Devil has been quite a ride.