Bribe, The (1949)

The Bribe (1949), directed by Robert Z. Leonard.

First review

Fine film noir with an unusual amount of boats, marlin fishing and sharks. You also don't often find a cop as conflicted as our hero. Striking chase and shootout amidst the fireworks at the end.

Robert Taylor is adequate as the leading man; actually his stiffness helps with this role. Charles Laughton and Vincent Price are at their slimy best.

Ava Gardner is in her exceedingly gorgeous phase, which lasted all of her life. She's like an angel who fell to earth and developed the most amazing bedroom eyes. I remember that one-strap top she wears being a famous celebrity photo.

I had been wanting to see this for years. It was featured in Steve Martin's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) as the long final segment.

Warner Archive DVD.

Second review

A G-Man undercover on a hot, sweaty island in Central America is after a gang of aircraft engine smugglers. He narrates his story from the middle, after he has fallen in love with another man's wife, and has decided that he can't be a cop any more if it means she is one of the villains. But they know he is a cop and he doesn't get to quit that easily.

Reviewers at the time were unimpressed. It seemed like an average, unexceptional crime-and-romance thriller. You see their point: not a lot of magic and Robert Taylor is at best an adequate hero, although more than usually conflicted and feeling it deeply.

We look back fondly on things viewers at the time took for granted: Joseph Ruttenberg's expert light-and-shadow photography and the trademark tempestuous score by Miklós Rózsa. Beautiful Ava Gardner is no femme fatale here, but a woman jammed up between a husband who has hit bottom and his crime associates who have leverage over her.

Charles Laughton is a shabby-sinister beach bum and Vincent Price the alternately affable and deadly Mr. Big.

Over all that we have the Hollywood fantasy of a mythical latin locale with American ex-pats hiding out, singing in bars, doing crimes, fighting and falling in love. Carl Reiner and Steve Martin ably mined that element in their spoof and homage to film noir, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), where the long final "Carlotta" segment is taken from this film.

The big fireworks shootout climax was directed by Vincente Minnelli, uncredited.

Available on DVD from Warner Archive.