Wednesday, May 04, 2022


Frankie Bono is a mid-level hitman from Cleveland who has gone to New York City during Christmas week to arrange a hit on a mobster named Troiano. He is warned to stay out of sight and get the job done by New Year's Eve. In a bar, he meets Pete, an old friend, and his sister Laurie who was Frankie's girlfriend in the past. Frankie thinks he maybe has a second chance with Laurie, but when he makes his move, which turns into a near-assault, she stops him. A fat slob of a guy named Ralph, who keeps rats as pets, is supposed to supply Frankie with a gun with a silencer, but Ralph stalls, asking for more money. Tracking Troiano, Frankie follows him to a beatnik club where the married gangster spends time with his mistress. Then things start to fall apart: Ralph finds out who Frankie's target is and threatens Frankie with blackmail; Frankie goes to Laurie's apartment hoping to restart their relationship but discovers she has a live-in boyfriend; when Frankie tries to get out of finishing the job, his employers threaten him: "A killer who doesn't kill gets killed." What’s a confused, depressed hitman to do?

This B-noir starts off rather fatalistically with narration about the birth of Frankie as the camera slowly moves through a tunnel in an expressionistic approximation of childbirth, and comes bursting out onto a train track into New York City, as though Frankie was predetermined to meet his fate there. The narration, in the second person by Lionel Stander, continues and adds to the existential noir feeling of the movie. Though cheap looking, the movie has urban atmosphere to burn, having been shot on New York streets. Its Christmas setting adds another element to the film's tone—noir expert Eddie Muller claims this is one of his favorite Christmas movies which he might have meant somewhat in jest. The scene of Frankie walking robotically past the decked-out Rockefeller Center is memorable. Allen Baron, who plays Frankie (and occasionally looks like a B-movie George C. Scott), went on to a long career as a television director, but never acted again. I wouldn't make grandiose claims for his acting talents, but he's fine here with a nice haunted, hunted look throughout. Larry Tucker as Ralph is memorable in a disgusting way, and Molly McCarthy as Laurie is very good as the passive but not weak woman who is confused by Frankie's actions. Not a polished classic (though it has gotten a Criterion Collection release) but a nice, tough example of late-period film noir. [TCM]

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