Saturday 16 March 2024

Movie Review: Cry Of The City (1948)

Genre: Noir Crime Drama  
Director: Robert Siodmak  
Starring: Victor Mature, Richard Conte, Shelley Winters, Debra Paget  
Running Time: 95 minutes  

Synopsis: Criminal Martin Rome (Richard Conte) is badly wounded and in police custody after killing a cop in a botched robbery. Police Lieutenant Vittorio Candella (Victor Mature) was Martin's childhood friend, and now questions him about another heist involving precious jewelry. Slimy lawyer Niles (Berry Kroeger) wants Martin to confess to the jewelry theft, which would implicate Martin's lover Teena Ricante (Debra Paget). She becomes the target of a police hunt, and Martin plots an escape to reveal the truth. 

What Works Well: A textured script (by Richard Murphy and Ben Hecht) is full of ambiguous motivation layers supplementing director Robert Siodmak's investment in doomed noir fundamentals. Martin Rome is identified early as a cop killer destined for the electric chair, but emerges as a complex protagonist driven by an unlikely love and willing to do the dirty work for others. Shady characters lurk in every corner, including Niles the lawyer, Brenda (Shelley Winters) the midnight lady, a shifty prison trusty (Walter Baldwin), a foreign doctor (Konstantin Shayne) providing questionable services, and Martin's impressionable younger brother Tony (Tommy Cook). Towering over them all is a giant masseuse (Hope Emerson) who redefines "handful". Emotional ties are woven through a friendship-from-childhood between Lieutenant Candella and Martin's family, adding nuance to some gorgeously filmed New York nighttime streetscapes.

What Does Not Work As Well: The characters just keep on coming - late into the third act, Siodmak is still finding new people and new places to introduce. And in a packed agenda, the editing and pacing demonstrate a tendency to overemphasize minor points.

Conclusion: The city's cry echoes with dazzling desperation.

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