Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eli Wallach, Robert Keith, Richard Jaeckel, Mary LaRoche, William Leslie, Emile Meyer, Marshall Reed, Raymond Bailey, Vaughn Taylor, Cheryl Callaway, Robert Bailey, Warner Anderson
Written by: Stirling Silliphant
Directed by: Don Siegel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 86
Date: 06/11/1958

The Lineup (1958)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Doll Case

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Don Siegel's early masterpiece The Lineup was filmed on location in San Francisco, and starts out with a punch as a porter throws a suitcase into the back of a cab at one of the Embarcadero piers; the cab speeds off, smashes into a truck and careens into a cop. The cop squeezes off a shot and the cab driver dies, smashing the cab into a barrier. The suitcase belongs to a reputable citizen, a man who worked at the San Francisco Opera, but it contains an Asian statue filled with heroin. Was the man smuggling drugs, or was he a dupe? It's up to two tired-looking police detectives (Emile Meyer and Marshall Reed) to find out what's going on. Meanwhile, an expert crook called Dancer (Eli Wallach) turns up, along with his dignified sidekick Julian (Robert Keith); it's their job to collect all the drugs that came over on the ship. But Dancer soon discovers that there are unforeseen problems in using innocent people as drug mules. Siegel shoots this almost like a documentary, using lots of real location footage (including shots of the 1950s-era Cliff House and the now defunct Sutro Museum). He also emphasizes ordinary-looking Joes with funny ears and wrinkly faces (no movie stars on this case -- no glamour allowed). A great, naturalistic-looking car chase finishes things off. The future Oscar-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night) wrote the tense script. It was based on a TV show.

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