The following is my entry in The Film Noir Blogathon, being hosted Aug. 12-14, 2016 by Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ lively critiques of a variety of film noir movies!
Cry of the City is a mesmerizing film-noir about Martin Rome (Richard Conte), a criminal currently recovering from bullet wounds after having a shoot-out with a cop that left the cop dead. On the other side of the law is Police Lieutenant Candella (Victor Mature), a cop who is singularly obsessed with bringing Rome down. The police suspect that Rome carried out a jewel robbery with Teena (Debra Paget), a young girl who briefly visited Rome in the prison ward. The robbery is yet unsolved, and Candella thinks that if he can track down Teena, he can resolve the robbery and end Rome’s crime career in one fell swoop.
The plot sounds cliched, yet the superlative acting, stark photography, gritty screenplay (co-written by an uncredited Ben Hecht), and taut direction by noir veteran Robert Siodmak (Criss Cross) result in a riveting tale. The story is presented most unglamorously, showing how both the villains and the good guys suffer.
Rome acts and talks like a cool crook but is frequently brought to heel by characters even shadier than he is — a self-serving lawyer (Berry Kroeger), a very mannish female masseuse (Hope Emerson). Candella puts himself and his partner (Fred Clark) through the wringer trying to catch Rome, and the movie lightly hints that Candella doesn’t completely act in virtuous-cop mode — that it might be a feather in his cap to bring down this major hoodlum.
The problem with a lot of film-noir is that it gets lost in stylishness at the expense of plausibility. Because Cry of the City takes the time to add some shades of nuance to its characters and settings, the viewer ends up having a stake in its outcome — which is deliciously delivered, by the way, right up to its haunting final shot. I’m for any movie that treats moviegoers like thinking adults, and Cry of the City fits the bill quite satisfyingly.