Monday, July 6, 2009

More Richard Conte

I mentioned Richard Conte a few days ago as the Nazi spy in 13 Rue Madeleine. He's appearing again on the Fox Movie Channel in the crime drama Cry of the City, at 6:00 AM ET July 7.

Conte stars as Martin Rome, a hoodlum from Little Italy who's constantly on the wrong side of the law. He's currently in a hospital prison ward, having been wounded in a gunfight during which he killed a police officer -- which the police think is the worst possible crime you can commit. One of the police detectives, Lt. Candella (Victor Mature), suspects that Rome is involved in another crime, a jewel robbery that ended in murder, and spends the entire movie trying to figure out Rome's role in that crime. It seems as though Candella may have some information from Rome's lawyer, and Marty fears that this information is going to implicate one of his many past girlfriends. In a panic, Marty escapes from the prison ward, and gets his current girlfriend (Shelley Winters) to ferry him around the city in search of a doctor who will treat him without reporting the gunshot wound....

Truth be told, most of the plot is beside the point, as the story is more about the characters, and stock characters abound here: the boy who grew up to be a cop; his friend who ended up on the wrong side of the law; the kid brother who idolizes his hoodlum brother; the Stereotypical Italian Mother; and various femmes fatales. In addition to Winters, there's Debra Paget, and; as a criminal accomplice running a massage parlor as a front, Hope Emerson.

All of the performances are good (especially the underrated Hope Emerson), but the story is a bit too by-the-numbers to be a truly great movie. Fox released this in 1948. In the years just after World War II, while MGM were turning out light fare like Freed Unit musicals to try to get America to forget the dark days of the war that was over, Fox was making a lot of more realistic movies, along the lines of what Warner Brothers had done in the early 1930s. I've mentioned all those Fox docudramas before, but there were also movies tackling the new social problems of the day like Gentleman's Agreement and No Way Out. Cry of the City is competent, but unfortunately gets lost in a sea of superior product from the same studio.

That isn't to say that Cry of the City isn't worth seeing. It's well worth a view. It hasn't been released to DVD in the US, either, so you'll either have to catch it on the Fox Movie Channel tomorrow, or find a DVD from abroad.

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