10 July 2013 | clore_2
Cast is the biggest virtue
The credits come on and one is really set up for something good. Broderick Crawford, Richard Conte, Anne Bancroft, Onslow Stevens, Marilyn Maxwell, J. Carroll Naish, Barry Kelley, Tom Powers, Mike Mazurki, Celia Lovsky...
The film starts with location footage and the stentorian tones of a narrator so you figure you're going to get one of those De Rochemont docudramas or at least a cheapie along the lines of Conte's The Sleeping City which was shot on location here in NYC.
No, soon we're on the Goldwyn lot which wouldn't be bad if there were some creative angles or lighting. But no, individual scenes are all harshly lit except for a fist fight when they needed to hide the stunt men (not very well either). Also, there are no dissolves, all scenes end with a fade to black and you half expect to see a commercial.
The story structure is no better - two major characters are just written out with no drama to punctuate the exits. The story in itself is promising enough, with hit man Conte imported from Chicago and recruited to remain with Crawford's mob after he neatly disposes of some upstart who causes headlines which "the syndicate" would prefer to avoid.
Crawford's daughter Bancroft seems to be falling for Conte, but that goes nowhere. Crawford's girl Marilyn Maxwell is definitely falling for Conte, but that goes nowhere, but hey, at least now the subtext folks have something to read into it. All I saw there was poor writing.
Conte's character is fairly bright it seems, then Bancroft uses the word "penchant" and he seems dumbfounded. That reversal happens again at the end of the film, but I won't reveal in what manner. Crawford keeps telling Conte he's brighter than all the other "pigs" he has in his employ who can't even spell their own names. So then, how has Crawford managed to head the East Coast mob and hold off trouble for 20 years if everyone working for him is an idiot? By the way, you will never hear the word "pigs" used so often in 87 minutes unless you're at a hog-calling contest.
Worth watching to see so many familiar faces in one film, but as to whether it's worth watching again is another matter. If I do, it won't be soon.