A definitive opening: Alan Ladd's hired gun wakes in a seedy hotel, then, with the distracted air of a schizophrenic, pays visit to his victims, first gunning down the man, then the woman as she tries to hide behind the door. Ladd's unsmiling performance - the prototype of the killer as angel of death - employs a repertory of classic gestures: no wonder Melville and Delon lifted so much of this film for Le Samourai. The film's amorphous conspiracy plot (this in 1942) lacks the conviction of the terse introduction, but director Tuttle wisely concentrates on the set pieces and performances rather than the script's loose adaptation of Graham Greene's novel. The dialogue, however, remains admirably laconic - 'How do you feel when you're doing it?''I feel fine' - faltering only at the end with Freudian motivation. Laird Cregar's urbane heavy and Veronica Lake's slinky undercover agent offer fine support. Ladd smiles in the end. He shouldn't have.