When we think of film noir as a concept, we often describe it as a B movie phenomenon, a look and feel associated with low budget crime dramas. But a lot of the big names we immediately think of as noir films are actually higher-budget A pictures with top stars and name directors – Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Sunset Blvd, etc. This year TCM (and Noir City Foundation programmer Eddie Muller) has done a great job of programming actual B-level films in the noir sidebar, intentionally choosing independently produced films that are clearly low budget programmers, which Raw Deal definitely is, despite being directed by Anthony Mann (before he got big) and starring recognizable but often B or second-lead actors like Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt.
Unusually, this film has a voiceover from a female perspective, with Claire Trevor narrating some, but not all, of the film. She play Pat, who is planning to break her man Joe (Dennis O’Keefe) out of prison, where he’s been taking the rap for his boss Rick (the inimitable Raymond Burr, consistently shot from the most imposing angle possible). Meanwhile, Joe’s lawyer’s assistant Ann (Marsha Hunt) is trying to convince Joe to hold out for a couple of years until he gets parole. Thinking he has Rick’s support, he opts to stick with the prison break plan. Unfortunately, Joe’s just a loose end to Rick, who expects and intends for the police to do his dirty work for him and eliminate Joe during his escape.