If You Like to Gamble…

Or three films about gamblers and gambling in their manifold manifestations.

Force of Evil

Abraham Polonsky | USA | 1948 | 78 minutes

John Garfield plays a New York lawyer working for a mob-run syndicate which plans to bankrupt smaller independent operators by rigging the outcome of the ‘numbers’ or ‘policy’ game. He doesn’t have any ethical problems with this per se – it’s more that his older brother, who paid his way through law school, is one of those who stands to be ruined by the scheme. The film’s equation between the routine workings of capitalism and crime likely contributed to director and star alike running afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Martin Scorsese on Touch of Evil.

The Rocking Horse Winner

Anthony Pélissier | UK | 1949 | 91 minutes

The Rocking Horse Winner

This adaptation of a D. H. Lawrence’s short story sees a boy develop an uncanny ability to predict winning racehorses by riding the rocking horse given to him as a Christmas present by his permanently financially embarrassed parents. Valerie Hobson and John Mills co-star as the spendthrift mother and the war-wounded ex-jockey family servant respectively.

A contemporary New York Times review of The Rocking Horse Winner.

A recent Popmatters review of The Rocking Horse Winner.

Bob le flambeur

Jean Pierre Melville | France | 1956 | 102 minutes

Bob le Flambeur

Gentleman gambler Bob experiences a run of bad luck that leaves him broke and to mastermind a daring casino robbery. Influenced by American film noir the film and its pseudonymous director were in turn an influence upon the nouvelle vague (Melville has a cameo role in A bout de souffle and suggested using jump cuts to Godard) and the likes of Soderberg’s Oceans Eleven and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight / Stanley.

Roger Ebert on Bob le flambeur.