Crime Film

Jewel Robbery (1932)

Baroness Teri (Kay Francis) has a life that many would envy.  She’s married to Baron Franz (Henry Kolker), who can easily afford to buy her all the furs and jewelery she could ever want.  There’s just one problem — he’s incredibly boring.  Teri desperately needs some excitement in her life, so she openly dates other men, but gets bored with them pretty quickly, too.

When Teri and Franz go to a jewelery store so that Franz can buy Teri a very large diamond ring, the store is robbed by an unnamed robber (William Powell).  This is no ordinary jewel thief, though.  He’s very suave, charming, and has the unusual habit of giving marijuana to the people he robs so they won’t call the police.  And it just so happens that this robber is exactly the type of man  Teri has been longing for.  He flirts with her as he steals her new ring from her, and she’s so enchanted with him that she doesn’t even need the marijuana to stop her from talking to the cops.

When Teri gets back home, she finds some mysterious flowers waiting for her and discovers that her jewelry safe has been opened.  However, nothing has been stolen.  In fact, something has been added to it — the ring that had just been stolen from her.  The robber sneaks up to her room and Teri tries to get him to take the ring back since there’s no way for her to wear it without raising suspicions.  He refuses, and it isn’t long before there’s a knock at the door from Detective Fritz (Alan Mowbray), who arrests Teri for being an accomplice to the robber.

It just so happens that Detective Fritz isn’t a detective after all, he’s actually working for the robber.  Fritz brings Teri to the robber’s apartment, where he spends the night wooing her and she falls even more deeply under his spell.  They make plans to run away to Nice together, but before they can leave, the real police show up.  The robber and his gang escape, but first, they tie Teri to a chair so the cops won’t accuse her of being an accomplice.  When all is said and done, her name stays clear, but she announces that she could use a vacation to recover from her “ordeal.”  Perhaps some time in Nice would do the trick…

If you know someone who thinks old movies were all super sanitized and boring, Jewel Robbery is the perfect movie to prove them wrong.  With its witty banter, infidelity, jewel heists, and drug use, Jewel Robbery is perfectly pre-code from start to finish.  The chemistry between Kay Francis and William Powell is phenomenal and it’s very hard not to laugh at the scenes of the jewelery store’s security guard acting high as a kite after the robber gives him that joint.  There’s nothing about it I didn’t like.  It’s a total delight to watch and is absolutely essential pre-code viewing.

The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)

For all her life, Molly Louvain (Ann Dvorak) has been treated like a second class citizen.  Her mother abandoned her when she was a baby and everyone in town assumes she’s nothing but a good-for-nothing tramp just like her mother was.  But Molly is determined to rise above it all and at last, she thinks she’s found what she’s been looking for in Ralph Rogers (Don Dillaway).  Ralph comes from a wealthy family and been having an affair with Molly and he’s in love with her and wants to introduce her to his family.  However, Molly’s happiness is shattered when he suddenly leaves town and leaves her behind expecting a child.

Molly works by selling cigars in a hotel, which is where she meets a young bellhop named Jimmy Cook (Richard Cromwell).  Jimmy absolutely adores Molly, but she only sees him as a friend.  When Molly decides to leave town, she runs off with Nicky Grant (Leslie Fenton), a traveling salesman and thief.  Three years pass and Molly now has a daughter she adores, but she can’t deal with Nicky’s shady dealings anymore and leaves him.  She gets a job as a dance hostess at a local club, and one night, in walks Jimmy Cook.

She and Jimmy leave the club to catch up with each other, but Nicky sees them and makes them get into a car, which it turns out, has been stolen and used in a robbery.  The police catch up with them when Nicky stops at a store and Molly is left to drive away.  Nicky is arrested, but now the police are after Molly, too.  She dyes her hair and she and Jimmy get out of town and they end up living in a boarding house along with reporter Scotty Cornell (Lee Tracy).  It just so happens that Scotty’s pet story is the police’s search for Molly Louvain.

Even though Scotty is extremely attracted to Molly, he fails to realize who she really is.  He also isn’t as serious about her as Jimmy is, who plans to marry her.  When Scotty hears this, he tells Molly that being with Jimmy would only mean unhappiness for them both, and she backs out of her marriage plans.  But then Scotty works with the police on a plan to catch Molly by announcing that her daughter was very sick.  Sure enough, the plan works and Molly turns herself in.  Scotty is shocked to find out who Molly is, but when he sees just how much Molly loves her daughter, he vows to help clear her name and give her the life she’s always dreamed of.

Gotta love a good Ann Dvorak pre-code.  She gives it her all in Molly Louvain and makes a  movie with an average story one worth seeing.  As great as Dvorak is in it, I’ve got to give credit to Lee Tracy for being able to keep up with her.  Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending and thought Molly would be better off with Jimmy, it was hard for me to fault Molly for choosing Scotty when Lee Tracy brought so much charisma to the character.  Jimmy may have had the best intentions, but compared to Scotty, he’s about as interesting as a piece of plain white bread.

Ladies They Talk About (1933)

Ladies They Talk About 1933 Barbara StanwyckNan Taylor (Barbara Stanwyck) is arrested after helping some friends rob a bank, but before her trial, she meets with David Slade (Preston Foster), a former classmate.  David is now a well-known preacher and very vocal about wanting harsher punishments for criminals.  When he sees Nan again, she tells him that she’s innocent and because he’s very attracted to her, he starts declaring her innocent to all of his followers.  But just as she’s about to be granted parole, she confesses the truth to David and she is sent to San Quentin instead.

Nan adjusts pretty well to prison life.  Even though she doesn’t get along with Susie (Dorothy Burgess), who is a big fan of David’s and very jealous of her connection to him, she’s generally well liked by the other prisoners and finds a good friend in Linda (Lillian Roth).  David writes to Nan, begging her to let him come visit her, but she just ignores all his letters.  One day, she gets a visit from her old friend Lefty (Harold Huber), who was part of that bank robbery, and finds out that their other cohorts Don and Dutch are in prison now, too.  Lefty is working on a plan to break them out of there, but needs Nan’s help.  She agrees to help, but she also finally agrees to see David again.

When David comes to see her, she gives David a letter to mail for her, and not thinking anything of it, he does.  The letter was to Lefty, which contained important information about the escape plan, and it ends up in the hands of the police and the whole plan is foiled.  Nan is furious with David because she thinks he deliberately ratted her out and now she has to stay in prison for another year.  When she finally does get out, she’s out for revenge.

Even though Ladies They Talk About is one of the more well-known pre-codes, I really wouldn’t call it a great movie.  The story is rather muddled and sometimes is just plain odd.  There’s one scene where Lillian Roth sings a song to a picture of Joe E. Brown.  When I recorded this, there was a cable interruption in the middle of it, so I missed about two minutes of the movie, but when it came back on, all of a sudden, there was Lillian Roth singing to Joe E. Brown and I was very confused. I have absolutely no idea why that happened so if someone could please fill me in on that, I’d appreciate it.

I’m no expert on prison escapes, but I’m pretty sure the escape attempt seen in this movie is one of the worst ones of all time.  Mostly because so much of it involves making a lot of noise late at night when it’s supposed to be dead quiet.  First, the guy knocks along the wall to find Nan’s cell.  Nobody else heard a lot of strange knocking coming from the wall?  Then, to drown out the noise of him trying to break through the wall, Nan starts playing music.  For some reason, no guard finds it at all suspicious that one of the inmates is suddenly playing loud music late at night. One way Nan helps with the escape plan is to make an imprint of an important key in a bar of soap, traces the outline, and sends it to Lefty.  I don’t know how the lady didn’t notice that one of her keys was suddenly very soapy.  Actually, you know what? I take back what I said about this escape plan being terrible.  It’s not so stupid if the prison staff is this completely oblivious.

Raffles (1930)

The Amateur Cracksman is a pro at breaking into safes and making off with jewelery, but he always manages to stay out of reach of Scotland Yard. The real identity of the Amateur Cracksman is none other than A.J. Raffles (Ronald Colman).  Raffles has recently fallen in love with Gwen (Kay Francis) and is about to give up the safecracking racket and go straight so that he and Gwen can be married.  Just after he thinks he’s pulled his last heist, his friend Bunny (Bramwell Fletcher) attempts suicide over a gambling debt. So to help his friend out, Raffles decides to go for one more heist.

Raffles sets his sights on stealing a very valuable necklace belonging to Lady Kitty Melrose (Alison Skipworth), so he and Bunny attend a party at the Melrose estate and Raffles goes to work trying to get in good with Kitty.  But Raffles isn’t the only one after the Melrose necklace. A burglar named Crawshaw (John Rogers) also has plans to steal it, but Scotland Yard found out about his plan and Inspector McKenzie (David Torrence) comes to the house to let everyone know about it.  Later that night, Crawshaw breaks in and gets the necklace, but Raffles manages to take the necklace from Crawshaw.

The police nab Crawshaw on the spot, but he vows to come after Raffles someday. The next morning, Raffles heads off to London, feeling like he isn’t good enough for Gwen. Gwen doesn’t know that Raffles is the Amateur Cracksman, but she soon begins to put the pieces together and she still loves him.  Meanwhile, Inspector McKenzie is also beginning to figure out who Raffles really is and decides to let Crawshaw go free, hoping that he will go to London looking for Raffles.

Sure enough, Crawshaw does go to London, but Gwen gets there before him and warns him about McKenzie’s plan.  McKenzie is also in town, just waiting for Crawshaw to get Raffles to confess. When Crawshaw finally shows up, ready to kill, Raffles is so smooth that he manages to talk him down, return the necklace to the Melrose family, collect the reward money, confess to being the Amateur Cracksman, and escape to run off to Paris with Gwen.

If you’re a fan of either Ronald Colman or Kay Francis, you will absolutely want to see Raffles. They made an excellent team and both of them were perfect for their respective roles. I would have liked to have seen more of Kay in it, though. Raffles also features some very beautiful cinematography thanks to Gregg Toland, who was a co-cinematographer on it.  Even though this was fairly early in Toland’s career, it’s very clear that he had a bright future ahead of him.  If you’re in the mood for a short but clever heist film, Raffles comes very highly recommended. It’s slick, stylish, fast-paced, and sophisticated.

Taxi! (1932)

The taxi business can get pretty cutthroat in New York City.  Pop Riley (Guy Kibbee) is an independent cabbie who for the past six years has laid claim to a choice corner outside of the restaurant where his daughter Sue (Loretta Yong) works as a waitress.  When rival Consolidated Cab Company decides they want his spot, they’re willing to stop at nothing to get their way.  First they try telling him to go someplace else.  Then while Pop is having lunch one day, someone working for Consolidated intentionally drives a truck into Pop’s cab, completely demolishing it.  Pop is so furious that he pulls out a gun and shoots and kills the person responsible for it.  He is sentenced to ten years in prison, but soon becomes ill and dies.

One cabby who isn’t willing to be pushed around by Consolidated is Matt Nolan (James Cagney).  He becomes a leader to the other independent cabbies and tries to rally them to overthrow Consolidated.  Although Sue hates Consolidated for what they did to her father, she can’t stand violence anymore and tries to stop them.  At first, Matt is upset that she isn’t helping them, but since she’s pretty, he decides to ask her out on a date anyway.  Although Sue loves Matt, the only thing she can’t stand about him is his awful temper.  They can’t go anywhere without him trying to start a fight with somebody.

After Matt and Sue get married, they go out to a nightclub with some friends and Matt’s brother Danny to celebrate.  As it turns out, Buck Gerard, head of Consolidated, is also at the same club with his girlfriend Marie.  Buck is pretty drunk and tries to start trouble with Matt.  Marie also doesn’t like it when Buck tries to start fights, so she pulls Sue aside and tells her to just ignore Buck to avoid problems.  But when Buck questions whether or not their wedding was a shotgun wedding, Matt can’t resist punching him.  Danny tries to get Matt away, but Buck pulls a knife out and accidentally stabs Danny to death.  Now Matt really wants revenge.  Marie has been hiding Buck and has found a way for him to sneak down to South America, but needs money to get him there.  Since she knows Sue wouldn’t want Matt to kill Buck and be sent to prison, she asks her for it.  Sue gives her the money, taking it from the money Matt was saving to buy Danny a headstone.  But when Matt’s friend spots Marie talking to Sue and finds out about the money, he storms over to Buck’s apartment to settle the score before he can get on the train to South America.

Taxi! isn’t bad, but isn’t particularly memorable either.  My biggest complaint about it movie is that I just don’t understand why Sue wouldn’t call the police when she knows exactly where the man who killed her father and husband’s brother is hiding.  But if you’re a big James Cagney fan, it’s worth seeing.  This movie was released a little less than a year after The Public Enemy had made Cagney a star and Taxi! is definitely pure Cagney.  Not even five minutes into the movie and he’s already beating somebody up.  Not only do we get to see Cagney the tough guy, it also gives us a glimpse at Cagney the dancer, which we got to see more of later in Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  There’s also an interesting scene where Cagney speaks Yiddish to a passenger.  So really, this is a showcase for a lot of different sides of James Cagney.  Loretta Young isn’t bad in it, either, but she actually wasn’t Warner Bros.’ first choice for the part of sue.  When I was looking for a picture to use for this post, I stumbled across an old Carole & Co. post that talks about how they originally wanted Carole Lombard for the part.  I would have loved to have seen Carole and Cagney together, but I liked him and Loretta well enough.

Beast of the City (1932)

Jim Fitzpatrick (Walter Huston) seems to be living the all-American dream life.  He’s got a wife, children, a nice home, a good job as a police officer, and a close relationship with his brother and fellow cop Ed (Wallace Ford).  Jim takes his job very seriously, especially when it comes to putting an end to organized crime.  When the bodies of some gangsters are found, Jim immediately suspects that notorious gangster Sam Belmonte (Jean Hersholt) is the one responsible.  Sam gets off the hook easily that time, but Jim is determined to come down on him hard.

Jim’s dedication eventually ends up working against him, though, and it gets him transferred to a smaller, quieter district.  Ed, however, continues to keep tabs on Belmonte and one night goes to question Daisy Stevens (Jean Harlow), Belmonte’s stenographer.  She tells Ed that she’s through with Belmonte and the two of them spend the evening getting drunk together and begin having an affair.  Meanwhile, Jim proves to be such a success at his new precinct when he stops a bank robber that he is made chief of police.  Back at his old precinct, Jim’s top priority is breaking up organized crime and starts shutting down speakeasies left and right.  However, he is also determined to not give any officers any unfair advantages.  When Ed asks for a promotion so he could have more money to take Daisy out with, Jim turns him down.  Later that night, he goes out with Daisy and they end up running into Belmonte.  Belmonte gives Ed the chance to earn some extra money by fixing it so he can get his illegal goods into town without getting caught.

The next day, Jim tells Ed that he will be in charge of escorting a large transport of cash.  When Ed tells Daisy about this, she tells one of Belmotne’s associates and they plan to steal the truck.  Daisy tells Ed about the plan and convinces him to go along with it.  The big heist goes down, but unbeknownst to Ed, the truck has been followed by two other officers who chase the thieves down.  When questioned at the station, one of the thieves admits that Ed was in on it, too.  The case goes to trial, and shockingly, all who were involved are found not guilty.  Ed desperately wants to rebuild his relationship with Jim and sever all ties with Belmonte.  Knowing that Belmonte and his gang are all out celebrating their court victory, Ed agrees to go confront Belmonte with Jim and several police officers backing them up.  Of course, Belmonte isn’t willing to go down without a fight and insists on going out in a hail of gunfire.

Beast of the City is a great crime movie.  Super gritty and raw with excellent performances all around (be sure to keep an eye out for a very young Mickey Rooney in a small part as one of Jim’s children).  It’s kind of like The Public Enemy, but from the cops’ perspective.  With so much grit and violence, y0u might think this was a Warner Brothers film, but surprisingly, it was produced by MGM.  That big shoot-out scene at the end of the film was definitely not something you would typically expect of a 1930s MGM film.  Especially since Irving Thalberg didn’t work on it and he was the one who pushed through a lot of MGM’s edgier films during that era.  This movie actually came about when Louis B. Mayer wanted to do a movie that created a positive image of police officers, but then it ended up being so violent that he refused to let it be the top feature in double features, it could only be the second film.  But Beast of the City is definitely top-feature quality.

I picked this one to write about for The Scarlett Olive’s For The Boys blogathon because it’s the complete antithesis of the 1930s MGM women’s picture.  When MGM wanted to appeal to women, they put Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, or Greta Garbo in the lead.  They’d have Adrian come up with some fabulous gowns and have some handsome leading man for them to wind up with.  The last way those movies would end is with a violent bloodbath.  Beast of the City doesn’t really have any female characters for women moviegoers to identify with.  Jean Harlow’s character isn’t exactly the kind of person women would be rooting for.  It doesn’t have a love story, it’s ultimately about the relationship between two brothers.  These aren’t even the kind of men that women would sit in the audience and swoon over.  Although I think women could easily enjoy it, I certainly did, it’s pretty clear that they weren’t expecting women to be lining up for it in 1932.

Be sure to visit The Scarlett Olive for more on movies that mainly appeal to men, be sure to pay them a visit for more contributions.

Le Jour se Leve (1939)

For Francois (Jean Gabin), the day started out like just another day, but that all changes when he gets a visit from Valentin (Jules Berry).  The two of them get into a fight, Francois shoots Valentin and Valentin collapses on the stairs outside of Francois’ apartment.  A crowd gathers outside, police surround the building, and Francois holes himself up in his apartment.  The police begin shooting at him, but he dodges all their bullets and starts looking back at how he got himself in this position.

He thinks back to one day when he was working in a factory when a woman named Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent) drops by to deliver some flowers.  He starts talking to her and the two of them really hit it off.  They start seeing each other and about a month later, he’s madly in love with her.  But then one night, she says she can’t see him because she’s meeting someone else that night.  Curious, Francois follows her to a club where she watches Valentin, an animal trainer, perform.  Francoise is clearly happy to see him and while Francois is hiding in the back by the bar, he is approached by Clara (Arletty).  Clara had been Valenitn’s assistant and had dated him, but has had enough of being jerked around by Valentin.

Even though Francois and Clara start having an affair and Francoise and Valentin are still seeing each other, Francois still sees Francoise and loves her.  One day, Valentin comes to see Francois and tells him that he’s not interested in Francoise romantically, he’s really her father and he had abandoned her twenty years earlier and left her in an orphanage.  When Francois tells her about this, she tells him it isn’t true.  By now, Francois has all the proof he needs of just how big of a manipulative jerk Valentin is.  One evening, Valentin comes by Francois’ apartment to confront him and the two of them get into a vicious argument.  After Francois dangles Valentin out of a window, Valentin pulls a gun out of his pocket.  But then Francois takes the gun from him and shoots him.  Valentin stumbles out of his room as we saw at the beginning of the film.

I’m very glad that I recorded Le Jour se Leve because this is a movie I’m going to want to watch again.  First of all, Jean Gabin was amazing in it.  Even though this was made a few years before the golden age of film noir, the subject matter and the use of flashbacks made it very film noir-esque.  It’s got some wonderful camera work and cinematography, the final shot of the movie is particularly haunting.  This movie was remade by RKO in 1947 as The Long Night starring Henry Fonda, Ann Dvorak, Vincent Price, and Barbara Bel Geddes.  RKO had wanted to have all copies of Le Jour se Leve destroyed, but thankfully they did not succeed in that because they would have destroyed one of the finest French films of all time.

Payment Deferred (1932)

William Marble’s (Charles Laughton) financial problems are hardly a secret.  He can’t go anywhere without someone asking him to pay up on a bill or someone whispering about how he can’t afford to buy his own drinks.  Things really come to a head when his boss finds out about a lawsuit against him and threatens to fire him if he can’t get it straightened out fast.  William thinks he might have found a solution to his problems when he gets an unexpected visit from his nephew James Medland (Ray Milland).  William doesn’t really know James, but he quickly notices that he has money.  First William tries convincing James to act on a financial tip he’s gotten, giving William a 10% commission of course.  James doesn’t like that idea, so William tries just asking him to lend him some money.  Again, James says no and William decides it’s time to move onto Plan C — murder.  He slips some Cyanide into a drink and offers it to James, then buries the body in the backyard.

The next day, William is wracked with guilt and his wife Annie (Dorothy Peterson) and his daughter Winnie (Maureen O’Sullivan) notice something is off about him.  When he goes to work, he takes James’ money and uses it on that hot financial tip and comes home a rich man.  All their debts can be paid off and William is able to quit his job.  Of course the family could also afford to either move or completely renovate their house, but obviously, William doesn’t want strangers poking around the place.  Instead, he sends Anna and Winnie off on vacation for a few weeks.  But while they’re gone, he gets a visit from Marguerite Collins (Verree Teasdale), a local shopkeeper.  Her visit isn’t purely social, though.  She’s there to get some money from William.  She seduces him and the two of them carry on an affair while Annie and Winnie are away, but Winnie finds out about them when she and her mother get home a day earlier than expected.

Not wanting to hurt her mother, Winnie keeps quiet about seeing Marguerite in the house.  But the idea of an unfaithful husband quickly proves to be the least of Annie’s problems when she figures out that William had poisoned James.  She doesn’t turn him in, though.  Life goes on, but Winnie starts hanging out with some more upper class people and becomes a real snob.  After fighting with William one night, she runs away and Annie goes chasing after her in the rain.  She doesn’t catch Winnie, but she does get horribly sick.  William takes care of her and she appears to be making steady progress.  At least she is until Marguerite pays another visit to blackmail William into giving her more money.  Annie overhears their conversation and, heartbroken, poisons herself with the Cyanide he used to kill James.  William doesn’t know she’s killed herself until a doctor arrives and finds her dead.  He is convicted of murder and put on death row.  Even though he didn’t kill Annie, he sees it as payment for killing James.

Payment Deferred was a very solid little movie.  Charles Laughton was pretty darn good in this.  He had some great sinister moments while interacting with James and I loved the scenes where he was paranoid and on edge.  This was a pretty early Ray Milland role and he doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he does well with what time he does have.  Maureen O’Sullivan really didn’t make much effort to use a British accent, but Dorothy Peterson made a great loyal wife and Verree Teasdale was pretty wonderfully evil.  Plus it’s not even an hour and a half long, so it’s one of those great “short but sweet” movies.  I’d definitely recommend checking this one out next time it’s on TCM.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) and Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau) are in the middle of a sordid affair.  The only thing standing in the way of them being together is Simon Carala, Florence’s husband and Julien’s boss.  As is the case in so many movies, they hatch a scheme to kill the husband and run off together.  And as is always the case, they think they’ve covered themselves in every way.  Julien goes into Simon’s office unnoticed, shoots him, makes it look like a suicide, escapes out the window using a rope, and goes straight to his car.  But once he gets to his car, he realizes he left behind one vital clue — the rope.  So he goes back to get it, but he leaves his car keys in the ignition.

What Julien doesn’t realize is that as he was getting ready to leave, flower shop sales girl Veronique (Yori Bertin) and her delinquent boyfriend Louis (Georges Poujouly) were admiring his car from a distance.  When he left, Louis couldn’t resist taking a closer look.  Then he couldn’t resist jumping in and taking a little ride with Veronique.  But nobody realizes the car has been stolen because the elevator Julien is in breaks down and he gets stuck.  As Louis and Veronique leave town, they pass the cafe where Julien was supposed to pick Florence up.  When Florence sees Julien’s car drive by with another woman in the passenger seat, she assumes that he’s leaving town with another woman and is devastated and spends the night wandering the streets of the city.

Louis and Veronique drive off to a motel where they check in as Mr. and Mrs. Julien Tavernier and spend the evening relaxing with a couple visiting from Germany.  The German couple also arrived in a pretty swanky car and after they go to bed, Louis decides to try to steal their car too.  When Louis’ attempts get the owner out of bed, Louis pulls out Julien’s gun, which had been left in his car, and shoots him and his wife.  They hurry back to Veronique’s apartment where they try to overdose on sleeping pills.  Meanwhile, when the police find Julien’s car and gun at the scene of the crime, of course the police start searching for him and Julien manages to escape from the elevator just in time for his picture to hit the morning papers.  He is quickly arrested and because the police don’t buy his elevator story, is charged with killing the German couple.  However, Florence does buy his story and sets out to put the record straight.  The police also found her husband’s body but suspected nothing, so if she could clear him of killing the Germans, he’d be free to be with her again.  Veronique and Louis survive their suicide attempt and Florence confronts them.  But after Florence leaves, they realize they left behind one clue at the motel that would undeniably tie them to the murders and Louis races back to the motel to retrieve it before it’s too late.

I loved every minute of Elevator to the Gallows.  Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and truly taut and suspenseful.  Very classic example of late 1950s French filmmaking.  And with a runtime of 88 minutes, I’m sure even people who don’t usually have the patience for foreign movies could handle this.  Do not let an aversion to subtitles turn you away from this one because you will be missing out big time.  Hands down, one of the best crime films I’ve ever seen.