At the height of the McCarthy witch-hunts, Hollywood churned out a slew of anti-Communist thrillers, most of them trash. Sam Fuller's classic 1953 noir is one of the rare exceptions.
An NYC pickpocket (Richard Widmark) inadvertently gets mixed up with a Commie agent and his patsy girlfriend and ends up going after the agent - - not from any high-flown patriotic motive but because he's fallen for the girl. Widmark's at his insolent, cynical best and he's matched by Thelma Ritter, who elevates her support role as a weary old street-seller into something archetypal. Joe MacDonald's high-contrast photography, meanwhile, captures all the grimy menace of back-alley New York and Fuller's tabloid mix of tenderness and violence has never been more arresting.