Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Thieves' Highway (1949) movie poster

director Jules Dassin
viewed: 02/01/2015

I started to work my way through the films of Jules Dassin.  Then five years happened.  Actually, it’s one of the true uses of having a personal film diary that you’ve actually made note of how long it’s been since you saw something.

I watched Brute Force (1947), Night and the City (1950), and Rififi (1955) back about five years ago and was quite taken with American director Jules Dassin.  That is, American director turned ex-pat Jules Dassin who was chased out of Hollywood and America during the Red Scare in the 1950’s.

Thieves’ Highway was his last film made in the United States and stars Richard Conte as Nick, a Greek-American who returns home to find his father cruelly crippled in a suspicious motor vehicle accident related to his job trucking fruits and vegetables from Fresno to San Francisco.  Nick seeks vengeance and gets a truck of his own to haul a load of apples to Frisco and to confront Mike “The Fig” Figlia (Lee J. Cobb), the tough market vendor who had Nick’s father duped out of his money and nearly killed in the accident.

The fruit market of San Francisco was filmed on location in the city and in Oakland, CA, and it’s a compelling portrait of the harsh marketplace of unbridled and criminal capitalism.  The screenplay was adapted by A. I. Bezzerides from his own novel.  Bezzerides was also the source for another noir truck hauling flick, They Drive by Night (1940) and seems to be quite an interesting figure himself.

Truck noir — is that a thing?  I’m thinking of Hell Drivers (1957) and The Wages of Fear (1953) alongside the others.

A top-notch flick, with lots of interesting location shooting, great character acting, complex mise en scene and other stuff.  I don’t know why it took me five years to get back to Dassin, but it won’t take me that long to see some more of his films, at least the ones on Criterion.

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