Sunday, 14 August 2016

Cry of the City (1948)

“Bleak, Grim, Noir Classic”

While Curt Siodmak was at Universal writing movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) his brother Robert was busy making some of the most memorable and beautifully crafted thrillers of the 1940s. CRY OF THE CITY is one of them, and it’s just about to have a Blu-ray release courtesy of the BFI.

Martin Rome (Richard Conte) is in hospital. Near death and nursing several bullet wounds, he survives surgery, escapes from the local lock-up, and goes on the run. His plan: to secure money and safe passage out of the country by playing on his knowledge of a recent jewellery heist.

On his tail is Rome’s ex-childhood friend Lt Candella (Victor Mature), who, with his colleague Lt Collins (Fred CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB Clark) pursues Rome through a New York filled with crooked lawyers, dodgy doctors and all manner of other dangers, until they come to a final showdown.
As hard-boiled and cynical as this kind of film noir comes, Robert Siodmak (along with actor Richard Conte) does a fine job of making Rome’s anti-hero the central character here, a murderer whom we empathise with, a villain we feel for as he attempts his daring escape from jail, even though we know he can come to no good end.

Providing an admirably equal match for Conte is Victor Mature in one of his best movie roles as the policeman who was friends with Rome as a boy. An understated but absolutely solid performance, this is a world away from the sword-and-sandalism of SAMSON & DELILAH and others that was soon to come. Fred Clark provides good support, but perhaps the most interesting supporting performances come from the female cast, including Shelley Winters as the leopard-skin-coat-wearing fast-talking girl with a heart of gold, Debra HAUNTED PALACE Paget in her first screen role as Rome’s girlfriend, and most of all Hope Emerson as the frankly terrifying (for all kinds of reasons) Rose Given. 

For a movie with the word ‘city’ in the title, surprisingly little of this takes place outside, the action being confined to the claustrophobic environs of hospital rooms, jail cells, and even the back of a car where an unlicensed doctor has to perform running repairs on Rome.
             Extras include a talking head piece on the film by Adrian Wooton, a commentary track by Adrian Martin, and an illustrated booklet with new writing on the film by Frank Krutnik. 

Robert Siodmak's CRY OF THE CITY is out on UK Blu-ray from the BFI on Monday 22nd August 2016

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