Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Force of Evil (1948)


Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Force of Evil (1948)

In Abraham Polonsky's film noir crime drama, his debut film:

  • the opening, silky-smooth voice-over of young, successful, and on-the-make Wall Street lawyer Joe Morse (John Garfield) during a high-angle camera view of towering skyscrapers surrounding St. Andrew's Church near Wall Street - he described how his principal client was Joe Tucker (Roy Roberts), the boss of a numbers racket: ("This is Wall Street and today was important because tomorrow, July Fourth, I intended to make my first million dollars, an exciting day in any man's life. Temporarily, the enterprise was slightly illegal. You see I was the lawyer for the numbers racket")
  • Joe's threatening discussion with his estranged, very honest older brother Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez) who had a small "numbers bank" of his own, urging him to give in and join his corrupt corporation: "Now, you listen to me! Something very serious is about to happen to your business. You're one of 20 or 30 numbers banks in the city - one of the smaller ones. Suppose a combine moves in. Suppose it organizes and merges these banks, eliminating the little ones, like yours. You're listening now, aren't ya? Suppose it reduces the overhead - legal fees, bail bonds. Supposing it reduces the cost and guarantees the profits. A man like you would be out of business, wouldn't you? You couldn't compete, could you? But suppose you had a brother, and this brother made your bank the number-one bank in the combination, in the merger, in the corporation...In return for the organization and service, in return for taking you into the combination, The corporation gets 2/3 of the profits and you get 1/3" - but Leo refused the proposed alliance deal: "Do you know what that is, Joe? Blackmail! That's what it is! Blackmail! My own brother blackmailing me!"; Joe angrily responded, calling his brother a "small man" for not wanting it
  • the long take of Joe's seductive discussion in the back seat of a taxi with Leo's young secretary-bookkeeper Doris Lowry (Beatrice Pearson), when she described him: "You're a strange man, and a very evil one.."; he replied: "And you're a sweet child, and you want me to be wicked to you...Make a pass for you, bowl you over, sweep you up, take the childishness out of you, and give you money and sin. That's real wickedness"; she countered: "What are you trying to make me think, Mr. Morse? What are you trying to make me think about myself - and you?"; when she added: "I know it's not wicked to give and want nothing back," Joe described his determined ideas about ambition and getting pleasure from taking from others: "It's perversion. Don't you see what it is? It's not natural. To go to great expense for something you want, that's natural. To reach out to take it, that's human, that's natural. But to get your pleasure from not taking, from cheating yourself deliberately like my brother did today, from not getting, from not taking. Don't you see what a black thing that is for a man to do? How it is to hate yourself and your brother, make him feel that he's guilty, that, that I'm guilty? Just to live and be guilty"
  • Joe's walk in a deserted Wall Street (amidst towering buildings) and his realization that he had become indebted to the syndicated mob for life, and was one of its corrupted victims
  • the scene of Doris and Joe reading startling newspaper headlines that Leo had been kidnapped and his meek bookkeeper Freddy Bauer (Howland Chamberlin) had been killed
  • in the conclusion, Joe's search for Leo - passing factories and a meat-packing area, ending with his running down a great stone staircase - almost a descent into hell - from Riverside Drive down to the rocks by the Hudson River lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge, where he found the dumped body of Leo; he described his descent in voice-over, and how he would now turn himself in to the city's new special prosecutor Link Hall: ("I wanted to find Leo, to see him once more. It was morning by then, dawn, and naturally I was feeling very bad there as I went down there. I just kept going down and down there. It was like going down to the bottom of the world to find my brother. I found my brother's body at the bottom there, where they had thrown it away on the rocks by the river, like an old, dirty rag nobody wants. He was dead, and I felt I had killed him. I turned back to give myself up to Hall, because if a man's life can be lived so long and come out this way, like rubbish, then something was horrible and had to be ended one way or another, and I decided to help")
Joe's Search For and Discovery of Leo's Corpse

High Angle Shot: "This is Wall Street..."

Lawyer Joe's Threatening Proposal to His Brother Leo

Back-Seat Taxi-Cab Scene with Doris

Joe's Walk Through Deserted Wall Street

Headlines: "Leo Morse Snatched; Bookkeeper Slain"


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