Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Night and the City

Yet another movie I'm somewhat surprised to see I haven't recommended before is the 1950 original version of Night and the City. Truth be told, that's because it's a Fox movie, and when I started blogging, it was out of the Fox Movie Channel's rotation. It recently got put back into the FMC rotation, and is airing again tomorrow at noon ET, so now is as good a time as any to recommend it.

Richard Widmark stars as small time hustler Harry Fabian, who starts off the movie touting nightclubs to rich tourists in London. Widmark is hard up for money, wanting to use his girlfriend Mary's (Gene Tierney) stash to start up one of his many ideas for a business scheme, but she's saving for the proverbial rainy day.

Things change when he meets Kristo (Herbert Lom), who is trying to promote his father as a wrestler. The modern day wrestling promoters don't want the old style, and besides, much of the wrestling world is run by the underwold, but Fabian disagrees and sees a huge potential to turn the tables on the underworld. The only thing is, he needs that money. If he can't get Mary's money, then perhaps at least he can get it from his boss, nightclub owner Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan).

At this point, things start to get really complicated. Mrs. Nosseross (Googie Withers) can't stand her husband, and wants to get away, and thinks that the money her husband is lending Fabian can help her get away. Fabian takes the bait, but doesn't realize that Mr. Nosseross gets wise to the game, learns that Fabian is going to double-cross him, and decides to turn the tables on Fabian.

To be honest, the plot of Night and the City is nothing special, in that it's not particularly superior to other great noirs like Gilda or Road House. What makes Night and the City special is director Jules Dassin's use of London as the location. The movie was filmed on location. It gives the movie a much different atmosphere than any of the American noirs that were shot on Hollywood soundstages, or even other movies of the late 1940s that were shot on location. The atmosphere feels even more gritty, realistic, and inglamorous than what Hollywood put out.

Fox have released a lot of their noirs to DVD, and Night and the City is no exception. The one thing you have to be careful about is that the movie was unfortunately remade in the early 1990s. Find the original version, and watch a great one.

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