Even if Sean Connery had never been cast as James Bond, the rugged, handsome Scots man would have still carved out an enviable cinematic career for himself. He plays a low-ranking criminal in writer-director John Lemont's grimy but atmospheric crime thriller "The Frightened City" and his "Hell Drivers'" co-star Herbert Lom along for the ride, too, as the mastermind behind an insurance racket. Watching Connery walk through this formulaic film noir is comparable to watching a tiger pacing restlessly about the confines of a cage far too small for him. The lean, mean Connery exudes charisma, and you can see that he was destined for bigger and better things. Aside from "Konga," "The Frightened City" is about as big as Lemont would ever get.
Paddy Damion (Sean Connery of "Goldfinger") is a small time hood who is loyal to his close friend and cat burglar, Wally (Kenneth Griffiths of "The Lion In Winter"), who broke his legs on a job gone bad. An urbane but unprincipled accountant, Waldo Zhernikov (Herbert Lom of "The Pink Panther"), joins forces with a ruthless gangster without a qualm, Harry Foulcher (Alfred Marks of "Valentino"), to organize a syndicate consisting of several rival crime bosses to operate a protection ring in London. They search for an able-bodied lieutenant to manage the collections for their mob and settle on Paddy because he uses his head and doesn't indulge in violence. Initially, Paddy wants nothing to do with them. When his partner in crime cannot resume his career as a cat burglar, Paddy concedes and takes Harry up on his offer.
This move represents Paddy's ascension into the big time in the British underworld. Predictably, all of this swells his head. He decides to push his long-time girlfriend Sadie (Olive McFarland) out of the way in favor of a delectable French-Algerian song-bird Anya Bergodin (Yvonne Romain of "Double Trouble"), who happens to be in cahoots with the slippery Zhernikov. Anya has been looking for a way to break into the nightclub scene and Zhernikov accommodates her. Naturally, Sadie isn't happy with Paddy's treachery, but soon things get out of hand. Later, one of the crime bosses, Alf Peters (David Davies of "The Heroes of the Telemark"), objects when Zhernikov wants to be the screws to a building contractor. Peters argues that the building contractor will bring in the police, so Zhernikov and Harry decide to eliminate him. They get Paddy to set up a meeting and Harry guns down Alf. Eventually, after the police pull Paddy in for questioning, our hero decides to turn against Zhernikov and Harry because they kill Wally. In fact, Wally tells Paddy after the latter winds up in jail for not collaborating with the cops to sort out the two of them. Meantime, a hard nosed Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Sayers (John Gregson of "Night of the Generals"), who doesn't mind breaking the rules, sets out to crack Paddy and round up the hoods behind the protection racket. Paddy breaks out of jail after Sayers puts him behind bars and goes after Zhernikov. Sayers picks up Sadie, and they follow Paddy to Zhernikov's apartment where the grand finale takes place.
Despite its strong cast, "The Frightened City" isn't very frightening.