Saturday, October 11, 2014

Night and the City (1950)

An exceptionally strong film, certainly one of Jules Dassin's most remarkable achievements, and one of the very best post-war crime dramas. Evocatively photographed on location in London (due to 20th Century-Fox having some finances tied up there after the war), the B&W cinematography and settings create a highly stylized yet seedy, gritty and hellishly sinister atmosphere. Dassin maintains a relentlessly bleak and cynical tone throughout, right up to the fatalistic ending.

Richard Widmark is perfectly cast as the desperate hustler Harry Fabian, a maniacal sociopath driven only by self-interest, who has his eyes set on controlling the entire wrestling industry in London. His grand ambitions cause him to stop at nothing to get what he wants, but when his scheme goes fatally awry, he finds himself betrayed by the people whose lives he has destroyed in pursuit of success. Widmark's characteristically intense performance must rank as one of his finest.

Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, and Francis L. Sullivan make up the fine supporting cast, but special mention really should be made of Herbert Lom as the ruthless wrestling kingpin and Mike Mazurki as the murderous prizefighter.

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