That’s particularly true for his film noir roles. Few debuts in the genre have been more striking or unnerving than Carey’s brief interludes in Andre’ de Toth‘s atmospheric Crime Wave (1954). In the uncredited role of pervert-punk Johnny Haslett, who lives in the seedy Chinatown hideout used by crooks Ted de Corsia and Charles Bronson, Carey’s first appearance (more than 50 minutes into the film) is like a bucket of ice water hitting your face at high speed.
De Toth aims the camera directly at Carey, who flips on his psychotic high beams and blows the scene away. He sustains a deranged grin while uttering dialogue through gritted teeth, then goes into a series of goofy facial contortions, all the while nervously fiddling with a deck of cards. It’s warped, it’s wild – but it’s also wonderful.
It gets better, too, when Carey moves into the background in the next scene at the hideout. With de Corsia, Bronson, and Gene Nelson in the foreground discussing their plans, Carey draws attention to himself sitting on the floor nearby. He’s mugging for all he’s worth, puffing furiously on a cigarette and blowing smoke rings through his teeth. Then, when Nelson frets that he must leave his girlfriend (Phyllis Kirk) with this cretin while they all go out on a caper, Carey slurs a deranged, menacing one-liner while still hunched on the floor, smoking away: “I’ll give her your love, Steve!” Priceless.