CRIME WAVE. Warner Brothers, 1953. Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson, Phyllis Kirk, Ted de Corsia, Charles Bronson (as Charles Buchinsky), Jay Novello, Ned Young, Dub Taylor. Director: André De Toth.

   Here’s a relatively unknown film noir that I recently saw for the first time, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s one I’m pleased to recommend to you without a single reservation. Or if you have seen it but not recently, why not watch it again? It’s one of those films that you see more of it every time you watch it.

   It isn’t much of a crime wave. A small gang of ex-cons are pulling a small series of gas station robberies. The police assume that they’re only after eating money, as the take they get is never more than a few hundred dollars. But when their latest job costs the life of a motorcycle cop who stops to investigate, the attitude of the police changes dramatically, starting with Det. Lt. Sims, played by Sterling Hayden, who towers majestically over everyone, laconically shooting out his dialogue in torrents, tommy-gun fashion.

   Caught in between the police and the holdup gang is Gene Nelson and his wife, Phyllis Kirk. He’s out on parole, has a good job, and wants nothing to do with his former cell mates, but when they invade his home and hold his wife hostage, he has no choice to go along with them, and the plan they’re working on next.

   The movie has filmed in only 13 days, and mostly on location in the greater Los Angeles area, giving the film a sense of immediacy that it might not otherwise have.

   On a personal level, Lt Sims is adamantly against the idea of parole — once a con always a con — and to me this is Starling Hayden’s movie all the way. Gene Nelson does his best, but standing up against this hulking nemesis of a police officer? No way, no how.

   Even if the ending is a little rushed (and all does end well), as a well-photographed crime thriller, that, well — go back and read my first paragraph again.