The last movie from a team of noir veterans, Framed (1975), has been released on DVD. Dave Kehr’s NY Times review is worth reproducing in full:
Released in 1975, “Framed” is among the last of the old-school films noirs. Three principal members of its creative team were part of the genre’s prime: the director Phil Karlson (“99 River Street,” 1953), the producer and screenwriter Mort Briskin (“Quicksand,” 1950), the cinematographer Jack A. Marta (who shot close to 200 B movies for Republic Pictures). The plot is practically a pocket guide to noir conventions. Joe Don Baker, a big man with a sad mouth, stars as Ron Lewis, a professional gambler who stumbles across a homicide involving some unknown, powerful people, who get him out of the way by sending him to prison on a trumped-up charge.
When, four years later, Lewis returns to the unnamed Southern metropolis he calls home, he finds that his adversaries have taken political control of the city and are moving in on the state. But Lewis, dehumanized by his experiences, isn’t deterred: with the help of a prison buddy, a syndicate hit man with a Sonny Bono haircut (Gabriel Dell, one of the original Dead End Kids back in the 1930s), he sets out to exact a terrible, bloody revenge.
“Somebody I don’t know took everything I had away from me,” he says, in a line from the Film Noir Hall of Fame, “and I’m going to make him pay. Double.”
Karlson and Briskin enjoyed a freak hit in 1973 with “Walking Tall” — essentially, a retooling of Karlson’s noir classic of 1955, “The Phenix City Story” — with Mr. Baker as a Southern sheriff fighting corruption. Their “Walking Tall” clout allowed them to make “Framed” without compromises, and this is a harsh, unlovely film, charged with unsettling anger and filled with a violence that was quite graphic for the time, and is still startling today.
Although “Framed” would prove to be the last film for both men, it is no nostalgic farewell. It’s a poison-pen letter filled with bitterness, paranoia and despair. When Lewis finally tracks down the individual responsible for his suffering, he finds — in another classic noir device — a man much like himself, with personal reasons for what he’s done. At the end of the journey lies its beginning, a film noir way of knowledge. (Legend Films, $14.95, R)