Films about the immigrant experience in the United States often run the gamut from comedy (Coming to America, Moscow on the Hudson) to historical depictions (Hester Street, The New Land) to autobiographical dramas (Elia Kazan’s America, America) and even horror films such as Netflix’s 2021 thriller, No One Gets Out Alive. Still, one of my favorite movies about a foreigner’s adventures on these shores is The Face Behind the Mask (1941), which stars Peter Lorre as an Eastern European refugee looking to start a new life in New York City.
What could make a reputable insurance instigator go bad? A beautiful woman? Lots of loot? A sense of empowerment? For Joe Peters (Charles McGraw), it’s all of these things but it’s definitely a femme fatale named Diane (Joan Dixon) who first ignites the copper’s lust and then his greed. Roadblock (1951) is a cleverly plotted, terse little film noir that has more twists and hairpin turns than a winding mountain road. What makes it stand out from other low-budget noirs produced at RKO is Charles McGraw’s compelling performance as an easily seduced sucker unlike his usual tough guy roles and Joan Dixon’s sultry presence. Continue reading →