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Kansas City Confidential is a 1952 film noir crime film directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne (actor), Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The film was released in the United Kingdom as The Secret Four . Karlson and Payne teamed up a year later for 99 River Street, another film noir, followed by a 1955 color film noir, Hell's Island.<>.</>
This film is now in the List of films in the public domain.


Four robbers hold up an armored car (valuables), getting away with over a million dollars in cash. Joe Rolfe (John Payne), a down-on-his-luck flower delivery truck driver is accused of being involved and is roughly interrogated by local police. Released due to lack of evidence, Joe, following the clues to a Mexican resort, decides to look for the men who set him up both to clear his name and to exact revenge. What he doesn’t know is that the heist involves a retired policeman who is also intent on revenge.


  • John Payne (actor) as Joe Rolfe/Peter Harris
  • Coleen Gray as Helen Foster aka Pumpkin
  • Preston Foster as Tim Foster
  • Neville Brand as Boyd Kane
  • Lee Van Cleef as Tony Romano
  • Jack Elam as Pete Harris aka Johnson
  • Dona Drake as Teresa
  • Mario Siletti as Tomaso
  • Howard Negley as Andrews
  • Carleton Young as Martin
  • Don Orlando as Diaz
  • Ted Ryan as Morelli


Kansas City Confidential was the only film made by Edward Small's short-lived Associated Players and Producers, a company formed by Small, Sol Lesser and Sam Briskin.</>


The film was popular enough to usher in a series of "confidential" films from Edward Small: New York Confidential (film), Chicago Confidential.</> Time magazine said the film "combines a 'perfect crime' plot with some fair-to-middling moviemaking.... Obviously, the 'confidential' of the title does not er to the picture's plot, which is a very model of transparency."<></> Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was not a fan, writing that Kansas City Confidential "appears designed&mdash;not too adroitly&mdash;just to stimulate the curious and the cruel. The screen play by George Bruce and Harry Essex is an illogical fable of crime, the direction by Phil Karlson is routine and the leading role is bluntly acted by John Payne. Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Preston Foster do not shine in other roles, except as drab exponents of the violence that suffuses and corrupts this measly film."<></>
When the film was released in DVD format in 2002, film critic Gary Johnson said, "This is prime Karlson. It's brutal, hard-edged, and unflinching, but it's also livened by a distinct streak of optimism. Whereas some directors of film noir perred the deterministic pessimism of Out of the Past and Raw Deal (1948 film), Karlson tempered the surface cynicism of his films with an underlying sense of hope."<></> Dave Kehr of The New York Times gave MGM Home Entertainment's 2007 DVD release of the film an extensive review. He called the release an "immeasurable improvement over what had been available":< name="kehr2007"></>
Kansas City Confidential, an imaginative little noir from 1952, exemplifies the bread-and-butter United Artists 1950s in film....Mr. Karlson, interestingly, concentrates on the story within the story: The leader of the gang is an embittered former police captain...who dons a mask when he interviews prospective collaborators whose names he has drawn from police files....The recruits are three young actors who would come to define menace in the ’50s and beyond: Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef, who here has his best role before For a Few Dollars More. Mr. Karlson’s filmmaking has few of the standard noir flourishes: the dark and brooding shadows, the bizarrely canted camera angles. Instead he works through gigantic close-ups and an unusually visceral treatment of bare-knuckle violence. With inements, he would continue to pursue this theme (revenge) and this style, right up through his creative resurgence in the ’70s: Ben (film) (1972), Walking Tall (1973 film) (1973) and Framed (1975 film) (1975).

Home media

Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics released Kansas City Confidential in high definition on Blu-ray and DVD in 2011.

See also

  • L.A. Confidential (film), a 1997 neo-noir film with similar themes
  • List of films in the public domain in the United States

Category:1952 films
Category:1950s crime drama films
Category:American films
Category:American crime drama films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:English-language films
Category:Film noir
Category:Films directed by Phil Karlson
Category:United Artists films
Category:Films set in Mexico

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