Phil Karlson

"Although his films of the 1940s were mainly minor, run-of-the-mill B features, he made his mark in the 50s with a number of modest but hard-hitting crime films noted for their realism and uninhibited violence." - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012

Phil Karlson

Director
(1908-1985) Born July 21, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Crime, Drama, Film Noir, Action, Caper, Melodrama, Crime Drama
Key Collaborators: Burnett Guffey (Cinematographer), George Duning (Composer), Kathryn Grant (Character Actress), John Payne (Leading Actor), Edward Small (Producer), Jerome Thoms (Editor), Robert Peterson (Production Designer), Brian Keith (Leading Actor), William Bowers (Screenwriter), Lewis J. Rachmil (Producer), Charles Nelson (Editor), Bud Small (Editor)

"People against organized crime and criminals are the subject of most of Karlson's top films. With this, a twist: the evil is rarely eliminated, only temporarily halted (99 River Street, 53; The Brothers Rico, 57; Walking Tall, 73). As such, Karlson is one of the more cynical directors of Hollywood's latter days." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
“Former gagman (for Buster Keaton), propman, studio manager and assistant director who turned out his first feature-length film in 1944. Karlson hit his stride in the 1950s with a brace of gritty crime melodramas noted for their realistic detail and graphic violence… Although he received a measure of critical attention and developed something of a cult following, Karlson remained a B director for the duration of his career. He scored a box office success in 1973 with Walking Tall.” - The Virgin International Encyclopedia of Film, 1992
"While lacking the passionate, near-visionary intensity of a Samuel Fuller, Karlson showed himself an unflinching action director of more-than-average gifts in a handful of gritty B pictures in the 1950s… Looking at Kansas City Confidential, Scandal Sheet (both 1952), and especially the breakneck-paced The Phenix City Story (1955), one gets the impression that Karlson could have been a noir master; but much of his other output plays like the ordinary hackwork it frequently was." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
"Karlson was most personal and most efficient when he dealt with the phenomenon of violence in a world controlled by organized evil. His special brand of lynch hysteria establishes such an outrageous moral imbalance that the most unthinkable violence releases the audience from its helpless passivity. Unfortunately, and American director gets nowhere making films like The Brothers Rico. The cosmopolitan genre prejudices are too strong." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Karlson was an interesting director of crime thrillers during the fifties. Vivid and full of action, they depicted the kind of environments that might produce corruption and violence. The Phenix City Story, in particular, is outstanding in its evocation of urban decay… Titles like Scandal Sheet, Kansas City Confidential and Tight Spot suggest Karlson's tabloid economy and, although he also made Westerns, it is as a thriller director that he awaits major discovery. Sadly, his work since the early Sixties has made little impact." - The Illustrated Who's Who of the Cinema, 1983
“Phil Karlson began directing in the mid-forties and made his reputation with the series of crisp, taut, and unusually violent crime melodramas he directed with skill in the fifties… From this point on, Karlson's films fell several notches. Two of his better efforts were Gunman's Walk (1958), a Western centering on a bitter father-son conflict, and Hell to Eternity (1960), an effective war film about a true-life Marine hero who single-handedly caused the surrender of one thousand Japanese soldiers.” - Ted Sennett (Great Movie Directors, 1986)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Kansas City Confidential (1952) ✖︎, The Phenix City Story (1955) ✖︎
Recommended
Scandal Sheet (1952) ✖︎, 99 River Street (1953) ✖︎, The Brothers Rico (1957) ✖︎, Gunman's Walk (1958)
Worth a Look
5 Against the House (1955) ✖︎, Tight Spot (1955) ✖︎
Approach with Caution
Hell's Island (1955) ✖︎, Key Witness (1960), The Silencers (1966), Walking Tall (1973)
Not Recommended
Kid Galahad (1962)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Kansas City Confidential
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