Frank Sinatra is an amazing figure in the history of modern American culture, no other man strode through all the aspects of life in quite the way he managed to. He managed to unite a pretty unique triumvirate of American society – associated and indebted to the mob, inveigled with the highest rank of US politics as a friend to the Kennedy clan and finally as an actor in top echelons of the Hollywood machine. It is often forgotten but Frank Sinatra was a serious actor and this was the film that helped to cement his position as such. Frankie Machine is released from jail, a reformed junkie/card-shark he tries to go straight but is slowly drawn back into the habit. It’s a pretty ground breaking work in its treatment of addiction and Ol’ Blue Eyes is convincing enough as the desperate but likeable addict. Otto Preminger manages the whole thing in a way that reminded me very clearly of Alfred Hitchcock, the camera moves with a stately confidence and the soundtrack pumps away with vibrancy, there’s even a nifty Saul Bass title sequence. It might be outdated but this film was an important step in knocking down a few barriers at the time and it holds up today.
Note: The Man with the Golden Arm is listed in the Neon book 1000 Essential Movies on Video under Smack Movies.