The Lineup (1958)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Film Noir  |   Release Date - Jun 1, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

By 1958, Don Siegel had developed a serious reputation as a maker of intelligent, thoughtful, and extremely violent crime movies -- enough so that he got the plum assignment of handling the feature-film adaptation of the long-running television series The Lineup, which starred Warner Anderson as Lieutenant Ben Guthrie of the San Francisco Police Department. Like the series, the movie was shot on-location in San Francisco, and Siegel uses the immediacy of the realistic settings and the verisimilitude derived from it to create a brisk, engrossing, and extremely violent movie. In a manner that anticipates his work in Dirty Harry more than a decade later, he weaves the action into the ambience of the city, so that one quickly forgets the fiction and is pulled into the pacing and rhythms of the piece -- this despite the fact that the filmmaker was hemmed in by a fairly low budget and the need to keep the elements of the series in sharp focus. The only flaw is a lag in the script two-thirds of the way through, which not even Siegel could fully overcome -- especially after what has happened up to that point -- that makes for a certain flaccidness in the pacing and tone before the extended denouement, built around a superb chase sequence. The ending of the latter is, to a great extent, the San Francisco equivalent of the denouement of Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948). And -- just as the latter movie was for postwar New York City -- although it's in black-and-white and not shot anamorphically, The Lineup is a great account of the look of San Francisco at the tail end of the 1950s.