Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gang War (1958)

I briefly mentioned the film Gang War back in December 2011. It's finally showing up again on FXM Retro, tomorrow morning at 10:35 AM.

Charles Bronson stars as Alan Avery, a high school teacher living the middle-class life in Los Angeles together with his pregnant wife Edie (Gloria Henry). One night, he has to go out to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her. Unfortunately, while he's in the parking lot after picking up the prescription, he sees two guy knifing a third to death. Who wants to see that? Well, Alan is a good citizen, so he goes to the nearest pay phone and calls up the police anonymously, to report that he saw a murder. He may be a good enough citizen to tell them he saw the murder, but he's not good enough to identify himself. And who can blame him? Nobody really wants to get involved as an eyewitness to murder.

However, Alan left the prescription behind in the phone booth, and since the police were able to figure out where the call came from, they were able to find the prescription and ultimately find the man who called in the news of this murder. The police ask him to come down to the station to file a report, and that's where the trouble really begins for poor Alan. It turns out that the murder was committed by a couple of henchmen of the gangster Maxie Meadows (John Doucette). Apparently, some bigger gangs from the national syndicate are trying to horn in on Meadows' territory, which is what led to the murder. But Meadows is still powerful enough to have sources in the police department who are beholden to him, not to the public. So Meadows finds out who's been ratting on his henchmen.

Meadows response to this is take another of his henchmen, boxer Chester, and have him go to the Avery place to smack Edie a bit -- just enough to give Alan second thoughts about testifying against Maxie's henchmen. Unfortunately, Chester has taken a few too many punches in the ring, to the point that he's not quite so good at following instructions any longer, or even recognizing his own strength. He hits Edie hard enough that he kills her. Oops.

Of course, Alan finds out about this, and it's enough to send him over the edge. He's now hell-bent for leather, and willing to get Maxie, consequences be damned....

Gang War is one of those B movies that Fox was making a lot of in the late 1950s and early 1960s, running under 75 minutes in length and using a lot of people who weren't established stars at the time. Gang War is one of the better ones. The story is interesting, it's got Bronson, and it's got a lot of location shooting in Los Angeles. Notably, the old Capitol Records building in Los Angeles, the one that was designed to be round and look like a stack of records, can be seen in the early sequences when Alan first witnesses the fatal knifing.

I don't think Gang War is available on DVD at all, so you're going to have to catch the FXM showing.

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