Release dateDecember 25, 1948 (1948-12-25) (United States) Based onthe novel Tuckers People by Ira Wolfert WriterAbraham Polonsky (screenplay), Ira Wolfert (screenplay), Ira Wolfert (novel) ScreenplayAbraham Polonsky, Ira Wolfert CastJohn Garfield (Joe Morse), Thomas Gomez (Leo Morse), Marie Windsor (Edna Tucker), Howland Chamberlain (Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)), Roy Roberts (Ben Tucker), Paul Fix (Bill Ficco) Similar moviesFocus, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, The Asphalt Jungle, Out of the Past, The Postman Always Rings Twice
Force of evil 1948
Force of Evil is a 1948 American crimefilm noir directed by Abraham Polonsky who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul (1947). Like Body and Soul, the film starred John Garfield. The film was adapted by Abraham Polonsky and Ira Wolfert from Wolfert's novel Tucker's People. The film marked the first on screen acting role of Beau Bridges.
The drama tells of a lawyer, Joe Morse (Garfield), working for a powerful gangster, Tucker, who wishes to consolidate and control the numbers racket in New York. This means assuming control of the many smaller numbers rackets, one of which is run by Morse’s older brother Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez). The plot which unfolds is a terse, melodramatic thriller notable for realist location photography, almost poetic dialogue and frequent biblical allusions (Cain and Abel, Judas's betrayal, stigmata).
According to MGM records the film earned $948,000 in the US and $217,000 overseas.
When the film was released, the staff at Variety magazine gave the film a mixed review:
Force of Evil fails to develop the excitement hinted at in the title. Makers apparently couldn't decide on the best way to present an exposé of the numbers racket, winding up with neither fish nor fowl as far as hard-hitting racketeer meller is concerned. A poetic, almost allegorical, interpretation keeps intruding on the tougher elements of the plot. This factor adds no distinction and only makes the going tougher...Garfield, as to be expected, comes through with a performance that gets everything out of the material furnished...On the technical side, the production fares better than story-wise. The physical mounting is expertly valued; the New York locale shots give authenticity; and lensing by George Barnes, while a bit on the arty side, displays skilled craftsmanship.
Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, liked the film, and wrote, "But for all its unpleasant nature, it must be said that this film is a dynamic crime-and-punishment drama, brilliantly and broadly realized. Out of material and ideas that have been worked over time after time, so that they've long since become stale and hackneyed, it gathers suspense and dread, a genuine feeling of the bleakness of crime and a terrible sense of doom. And it catches in eloquent tatters of on-the-wing dialogue moving intimations of the pathos of hopeful lives gone wrong."
Over the years, Force of Evil has been recognized as a masterpiece of the film noir genre, powerful in its poetic images and language, by film critics and historians such as William S. Pechter and Andrew Dickos. Its influence has been acknowledged many times by Martin Scorsese in the making of his crime dramas.