Movies and Film

In Life and Love – Roadblock (1951)

Roadblock is a nice little mystery/noir thriller that calls to mind shadows of Double Indemnity, though obviously not as good.  It finds Charles McGraw as an insurance investigator who has a run-in with a woman who seems to be on the run.  How does he know this?  Perhaps it is because she first pretends to be his girlfriend and then later his wife and also because he is simply just good at his job.  He soon falls for her and he falls hard only to be rebuffed at every turn until she too finally admits she feels something for him.  The problem is she enjoys the high life and he does not have the means to support her lifestyle.  What follows is a plan to rip off hundreds of thousands of dollars not knowing that the people he works with are good at their jobs as well.

roadblock4It is always fun to see what a man or even a woman will do for love.  You could be the most upstanding citizen and turn to crime all for the woman you love.  So it is with Joe Peters who does exactly that.  At first he thinks it is a simple, harmless crime because whatever is stolen will be covered by what else, insurance.  But when a man is killed, Joe’s simple crime of passion becomes a lot more than he bargained for.

roadblock3Charles McGraw is convincing as insurance investigator Joe Peters.  Joe knows his stuff and he takes no guff while doing it.  As the film progresses you can see Joe’s tough guy character get whittled down into what some might term ‘whipped’ and McGraw makes it seem like second nature as he does it so easy.  Joe is no longer as confidant, he starts looking over his shoulder and his worry eats away at him.  Opposite him is Joan Dixon who leads him on for most of the picture and plays a woman who seems to be one thing but in truth, is another.  She may act like a gold-digger, and perhaps she is a bit, but she is a woman who has not had an easy life and who would not enjoy the finer things in life if given the choice to have them?  Joe is a man though who knows what he wants and there is nothing he wants more than Diane and he will do what he has to in order to get her.

As a noir or even just as a film in general, Roadblock sucks you in from the first and refuses to let you go.  The writing by George Bricker and Steve Fisher is strong and smart much like that aforementioned film Double Indemnity.  Likewise, the characters who spout that smart and strong dialogue are just like it, not to mention complex and compelling.  Harold Daniels creates a film that may not have an all-star cast or a budget to match, but it could stand right up alongside them as there is neither a dull moment nor a time when you are not entertained by it.  B film it might be, but it is filmmaking at its best.

4 out of 5

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