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I Died a Million TimesGangster Noir in Midcentury America$
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Robert Miklitsch

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043611

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043611.001.0001

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Odds against Tomorrow

Odds against Tomorrow

Race, Space, and Sputnik Noir

(p.218) 9 Odds against Tomorrow
I Died a Million Times

Robert Miklitsch

University of Illinois Press

In Odds against Tomorrow (1959), the relation between crime thriller and social commentary in Robert Wise’s film can be said to turn the generic glove inside out so that the heist picture becomes a vehicle for social protest. Unlike The Defiant Ones (1957), in which the positive social message is compromised by its ultimately regressive take on the prison picture, the apocalyptic, seemingly nihilistic conclusion of Odds against Tomorrow represents a negative critique of both the heist and social-problem picture. From this dual point of view, Wise’s film may be said to be what Jonathan Munby calls a “civil rights noir,” an oxymoron that points to the limits of the classic social-problem film even as it points up the latent utopianism of the heist picture. Unlike the conclusion of The Asphalt Jungle, which looks backward to the nation’s agrarian past, the ending of Odds against Tomorrow evokes the lunar landscape and, by implication, the promise of the “new frontier”--of space travel and civil rights in the oppressive face of ignorance and prejudice.

Keywords:   Heist, Space, social problem, civil rights, film noir, Odds against Tomorrow

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