Monday, September 24, 2012

Movie Monday: Dark City

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1950 film noir Dark City!

Dark City is not the (IMO) vastly overrated 1998 sci-fi film, but rather a mystery thriller that features the first starring role of some kid named Charlton Heston--plus a supporting cast that is about as cool as it gets
Heston plays Danny Haley, a n'er-do-well on his way to visit the illegal gambling hideout he runs with his cronies. But on his way there he sees the cops headed in the same direction, and hides out in a nearby coffee shop as the place gets busted.

Inside the hideout are the three guys who are in cahoots with Heston, played by Jack Webb (Dragnet), Ed Begley (12 Angry Men), and Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H and, funnily enough, Dragnet):
Webb and Begley are busted, but Morgan--playing the sweet and appropriately named Soldier--escapes the long arm of the law. For now.

Later, Haley arrives, and is at a loss as to what to do now that their livelihood has been decimated by the cops. While visiting a nightclub singer named Fran Garland (Lizabeth Scott), he meets a good-natured business man named Arthur Winant (Don DeFore), who makes the mistake of revealing he's carrying a cashiers check for $5000, to be delivered to a business associate.

Haley invites DeFore to a poker game with his pals, and at first he manages to clean up against them:
But something's wrong--while visiting, Fran notices the other guys are purposely throwing the game, so Winant will win. Its all a plan, so when he's invited back the next night, they turn the tables on him. Winant loses his shirt, and is pressured into signing over the check, even though the money isn't his.

Shortly thereafter, Winant, in a fit of panic, hangs himself. The local police captain (Dean Jagger) tries to get Haley to confess to being involved, but Haley professes his ignorance to the whole thing.

But it doesn't end there--Winant has a brother, a psychopath named Sidney, who takes it upon himself to extract revenge against the guys who swindled his brother. His first victim is Barney (Begley), who Haley finds dead, hanging by a noose. Soldier, who is disgusted at even being involved, heads off for Vegas, leaving Haley to try and flush Sidney out into the open.

After making friends with Arthur Winant's widow (Viveca Lindfors) and her young son, Haley takes off for Vegas as well, where Soldier gets him a job as a dealer. Haley thinks he's escaped, but as we see the darkness follows him to his new home, in the form of the murderous Sidney Winant, whose identity is kept from us until the very end of the film:

I won't say any more about Dark City, because anyone who is a fan of film noir should head over to Netflix right now and watch it. At around 90 minutes, the film is a crackerjack piece of "B" filmmaking, featuring an excellent supporting cast, sharp noir visuals, and some scenes that verge on almost a horror film (Sidney Winant, with his whole "hanging" MO, could have been a Batman or Dick Tracy villain).

It's not perfect--we're treated to four(!) musical numbers by Elizabeth Scott's character, which is three and a half too many. And when the identity of Sidney Winant is revealed, it's all over too quickly and it doesn't really get a chance to register as effectively as it might have.

But overall I thoroughly enjoyed Dark City; it's a tough little movie, and one that's well worth seeking out for film noir fans. I wonder if this Chuck Heston ever did anything else after this?


1 comment:

Robert M. Lindsey said...

I almost watched this last night! I opted for Appointment with Danger instead. Oddly enough, that one also had Jack Webb and Harry Morgan!

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