(1947) Anthony Mann. Film Forum series.
A palimpsest of a movie - docudrama upon educational government film upon Hollywood noir thriller. A semantic contrast from explicative political administrators and postcard shots of Washington, D.C. (whose design and architecture is ripe for the way Mann makes signature of black & white) to seamy L.A. alleys and paranoiac expressionistic backrooms. The high melodrama contrasted with the aseptic bureaucracy is a timely depiction of the official and conspiratorial environment created by F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover employed a vast publicity machine for his burgeoning F.B.I, enlisting tabloid writers like Walter Winchell, the squib man of Old Broadway, and disseminated a dense culture of comic strips, dime novels, and instructional films revealing the Bureau's cutting edge investigative techniques based on forensic science. Hoover made a name for the F.B.I going after thieves of money like Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger, but also targeted fakers of money like the subversive network of enemies in T-Men. Counterfeiters are direct threats to the capitalist way of life. The investigation leads the T-Men into miasmic Turkish steam baths, and motel rooms become torture chambers at a turn of angle and light.