Lineup, The (1958)

The Lineup (1958), directed by Don Siegel.

Based on a TV series, originally a radio show, meant to be a sort of "Dragnet in San Francisco".

After a slow first 20 minutes (which Siegel wanted to cut -- it's the "TV show" intro), the film comes alive when hit men Eli Wallach and Robert Keith arrive. As we follow them through their day we come to understand that they are psychos. They try to recover some missing heroin. In the final 10 minutes we have a deadly encounter with Mr Big and a high speed chase through the city.

The plot is ludicrous: do psychos make reliable employees? Do you have to import them all the way from Miami? Can vast amounts of heroin be smuggled inside tableware? Film noir fans like this one because (a) they revere Siegel, (b) they like the villains, and (c) there are many scenes around SF.

Eli Wallach's second film, the first being Baby Doll (1956). Robert Keith was last seen as the catatonic Colonel in Men in War (1957).

The DVD commentary track is by film noir expert Eddie Muller and novelist James Ellroy, who thinks he's a shock jock. They're having too much fun to be very informative, but care about the film enough to settle down now and then and discuss it.