What do critics dream about? John Ford got the best reviews of his career for this heavy- handed, humourless and patronising art film ('Many consider it the greatest talking picture ever made in America,' wrote Theodore Huff a few years later), roundly, and rightly, debunked by Lindsay Anderson for having the 'painstaking explicitness of a silent film grimly determined to tell its story without the aid of titles'. Liquored up by Ford, McLaglen won an Oscar for his lumbering portrait of a brainless, boozy Dubliner, Gypo Nolan, who betrays his buddy to the Black and Tans for a kingly £20, then suffers sweatily under the torments of conscience. There were further awards for the director, Dudley Nichols' script, and Max Steiner's score - all equally over-emphatic. Today, only Joe August's foggy expressionist camerawork still captures the imagination, but even this becomes enervatingly portentous before long.
Cast and crew