[[caption-width-right:287:I don't talk much, I just cut the hair.]]

->''"A movie about a barber who wants to be a dry cleaner"''
-->-- The pitch for the movie.

There is a totally emotionless barber named Ed Crane. It's 1949 and a bald man, Creighton Tolliver, has some sales pitch about "Dry Cleaning". Ed's wife, Doris, is having an affair with her boss, "Big" Dave Brewster. Ed decides to blackmail the pair to pay for a silent partnership. When Mr. Tolliver asks Mr. Brewster for the same amount of money for which he was being blackmailed, Mr. Brewster finds Mr. Tolliver and beats the whole story out of him. From there, [[BlackmailBackfire things spiral out of control]].

A FilmNoir from infamous oddballs Creator/TheCoenBrothers, played so straight that Creator/JamesMCain could have written it without any changes.
!!This film provides examples of:

* AmoralAttorney: The lawyer hired to defend [[spoiler:Doris]] is willing to spin ''any'' tale to get [[spoiler:her]] off the hook, so long as he thinks the jury might buy it. [[spoiler:When Ed makes a confession to him, he dismisses it out of hand, saying it's too cockamamie a story for anyone to believe.]]
* AlienAbduction: [[spoiler: According to his wife Big Dave was abducted; she thinks he was killed by TheGovernment to cover it up.]]
* ArcWords: "What kind of a man are you?"
* BigEater: Freddy Reidenschnieder.
* {{Blackmail}}
** BlackmailBackfire
* ContemplateOurNavels: "The hair. It keeps growing... It's part of us. And we cut it off."
* ChewbaccaDefense:
** Freddy Riedenschnieder's defense of Doris Crane involves a truly baffling spiel about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
** And from the second trial where he spouts weird, vaguely existentialist drivel about Ed being a "New Man" in this morally ambiguous modern world who thus presumably is not responsible: "He told them to look, not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaning."
* DownerEnding
* DeliberatelyMonochrome
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Doris, because her affair with Big Dave will become public when her pregnancy is revealed.]]
* DullSurprise: Ed Crane, the character, has no emotions.
* FilmNoir: Played straight to the point it snaps.
* FlamboyantGay: Creator/JonPolito as Creighton Tolliver. He made a pass at Ed by sitting back on his bed, winking at him, and loosening his necktie. Most people today would consider that "relaxing," but apparently in 1940s America it was a blatant come-on. You couldn't be ''too'' flamboyant without getting arrested.
* FramingTheGuiltyParty: Category 2, in a way. [[spoiler:While Ed, Doris, and Riedenschneider are brainstorming Doris's defense, Ed states that he killed Big Dave. Riedenschneider doesn't notice (or doesn't care) that he just confessed to the crime, and mulls over how well accusing Ed of murdering Big Dave in a jealous rage would hold up in court. He rules it out for being too implausible.]]
* TheNounWhoVerbed: The title.
* IllNeverTellYouWhatImTellingYou: Ridenschneider comes up with a theory about Big Dave being blackmailed to get Doris acquitted, but needs her to corroborate the story. Legally, he can't suborn perjury, so he insists that he's ''not'' telling her what to say.
-->"They called, they demanded money. Did Big Dave mention that it was something about his war service? I don't know, I wasn't there, ''you'll'' have to tell ''us''. Maybe he specified, maybe he didn't; I'm not putting words in your mouth..."
* IShouldWriteABookAboutThis: [[spoiler:Just before his execution, Ed writes his life story for publication in a pulp men's magazine. He apologizes to the audience for the unnecessary digressions in the story we have just heard narrated, explaining he was paid by the word.]]
* ItWillNeverCatchOn: "Dry" Cleaning. [[spoiler:Subverted in that it doesn't, instead the salesman is murdered!]]
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: Taken from the poem "Antagonish" by William Hughes Mearns.
* PhonyVeteran: "Big" Dave Brewster boasts about his heroic exploits in the Pacific theater of WorldWarII while it turns out he in fact served throughout the war in a administrative capacity in the San Francisco naval yard.
* ThePollyanna: Ed is perhaps the oddest version in film history, mixed with enormous amounts of apathy and stoicism. Even with all the bad things that happen, he never holds anyone up for blame and is unresentful of even the worst that fate hands him. Even at the end, he holds no ill will against the world.
* {{Narrator}}: Ed Crane. Oddly enough, the least [[FirstPersonSmartass smart ass]] person in the world.
* ShoutOut: A notable one to ''Film/TheNightOfTheHunter''.
* SmokingIsCool: Seriously, don't watch this movie if you've recently quit smoking.
* TheStoic: Ed Crane.
* TwiceToldTale: The similarities to Creator/AlbertCamus' ''[[Literature/TheStranger L'Étranger]]'' are undeniable.