Thieves' Highway (The Criterion Collection)

 
9781559409513: Thieves' Highway (The Criterion Collection)

Thieves’ Highway is set in the world of "long-haul boys" who drive by night to bring their goods to the markets of America’s cities. Ex-G.I. Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) is a tyro trucker bent on satisfaction from the man responsible for crippling his father—ruthless market operator Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). Along the way, he is seduced by siren Rica (Valentina Cortesa) and drawn into the San Francisco produce racket—landing him in a web of treachery and heartbreak. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this Jules Dassin masterpiece, the last film he completed in America before he was blacklisted.

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Review:

The rugged world of long-haul trucking knits perfectly with classic film noir dynamics in this sizzling, underrated picture. Navy veteran Richard Conte returns home to California, only to plunge into a revenge scenario and a scheme to haul the season's first apples to the teeming San Francisco fruit market (a place seen as a nocturnal jungle for the survival of the fittest). Lee J. Cobb enjoys himself enormously as the chiseling boss at the Frisco market, Millard Mitchell is wry as Conte's angle-playing trucking partner, and Valentina Cortese adds a bright, sexy exoticism to the multi-layered duplicitous dame. Director Jules Dassin, in his last American-shot film before blacklisting, shows his expressive abilities with shadowy interiors and road-movie exteriors alike. The punchy screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides, whose trucking experiences also fueled They Drive by Night, is a textbook case for the complexities of pulp--not apples, fiction. --Robert Horton

Additional Features:

A brief video interview with Jules Dassin gives context for the movie (nice to hear from a director who specifically remembers making great shots--and his love for his leading lady), and there's a strong essay by Michael Sragow. Alain Silver's commentary track sketches the place of Thieves' Highway in the noir tradition, and background on the principals involved. An excerpt from a new documentary, The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides, provides a tantalizing look at an interesting screenwriter. --Robert Horton

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