Andre de Toth was a Hungarian filmmaker who relocated to Hollywood during the war with a great professional training, where he proceeded to churn out excellent but unassuming B-pictures. He was also married to Veronica Lake for eight years, which must have been interesting. Beaten to the punch by The Man With The Golden Arm, his excellent junkie film stands in gritty contrast to Preminger’s typically self-important A-flick. There’s nothing flashy or self-aggrandizing about this (true) story of champion boxer, marine and morphine addict Barney Ross, and it is told with the efficiency and immediacy of a Fuller expose.
The movie’s star is Cameron Mitchell, firmly B-list but promising at the time, and subsequent one-episode wonder on numerous TV shows and star of a number of Mario Bava pictures, (having emigrated to Europe to avoid the IRS.) He grabs the role with both hands and even if he can’t match Sinatra’s charismatic star-power, an everyday mug and indefatigable optimism make his desperate descent into the gutter of addiction all the more affective. An eerie staging of Guadalcanal â silent but for rain and bursts of gunfire â is the hell from which his addiction is born, and the post-war, back-alley world of the jonesing junkie rings grubbily true. With strong support from Dianne Foster as his wary wife and a louche and laconic Paul Richards as his dealer, it plays like the heartfelt, street-level version of Preminger’s tentpole.