Year: 1956

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price

All the right names are attached to While the City Sleeps. As the opening credits unfolded I noticed pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. This film features a star studded cast including (in no particular order) Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, George Sanders, John Drew Barrymore, Vincent Price, Rhonda Fleming, and Howard Duff, just to name a few. This cast portray characters in a movie that shines a light on some unattractive aspects of human nature.

After the death of a rich entrepreneur named Amos Kyne, his top employees struggle for control in this Fritz Lang film filled with twists, and turns. Their goal is to impress Mr. Kyne’s son, played by Vincent Price. Meanwhile, a brutal new serial killer is plaguing the city and they all want to dig up a scoop to secure some stature within the media empire.

This film not only takes a haunting look at the mind of a serial killer but also portrays the cut throat nature of office politics, especially amongst newsmen.

The real success of this film is the twists and turns and the backstabbing amongst all involved in Kyne’s media empire including the women involved with those trying to climb the ladder to prestige and success. Fritz Lang doesn’t pull punches as he depicts the lengths people are willing to go to further their career. The following line, spoken by one of the competitors, depicts just how low a man will go to get a little further ahead, “To get the job I’ll stick a knife into anyone I have to.” While the prominent members of Kyne’s media empire figuratively stick knives into one another a disturbed serial killer is literally murdering woman after woman. The cutthroat world of business is more then adequately likened to the most disturbed criminals found in modern society.

At times the story drags a little bit and considering the subject matter it isn’t nearly as suspenseful and gritty as it could be. Watching these very human characters as they claw at the throats of those standing in their way is not only entertaining but results in a little introspection on just how far each and every one of us might go to get ahead.

By Greg Dickson

Year: 1950

Director: Otto Preminger

Cast: Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Karl Malden, Gary Merrill

Detective Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) is a cop loaded with demons. He hates criminals because his father had been one. Dixon is a brutal cop who does not have to follow the rules. A predecessor to Dirty Harry, Dixon sees the law as too soft on criminals.

Set in New York, the film is a dark look at Dixon’s obsessive pursuit of gangster Tommy Scalise, a former associate of his father. Preminger portrays Dixon as a loner, haunted by the past without a moral compass. While in pursuit of Scalise, Dixon accidently kills Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) and covers it up causing Paine’s former father in law to be arrested for the crime. He begins a relationship with Morgan (Gene Tierney), a fashion model and Paine’s ex-wife which will eventually will make Dixon confess to his crime.

Preminger, like Fritz Lang, was a student of German Expressionism which begat Film Noir. From the mid 1940’s to the early 1950’s Preminger produced a series of noir classics starting with Laura, Fallen Angel, Whirlpool, Angel Face and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Working with cinematographer Joseph LaShelle in Where the Sidewalks End, they created a claustrophobic bleak seedy post world war two vision of 1950’s America.

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney who both starred in Preminger’s Laura some six years earlier are solid in their roles. Andrews plays Dixon as a tight lipped, full of rage, ready to explode detective whose only outlet is to take it out on the gangster scum controlling the grimy streets. Tierney is also very good as Morgan showing off a kind gentle nature almost the opposite of everyone else in the film. The cast also includes Gary Merrill, as Scalise, Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Thomas and Neville Brand as one of Scalise’s hood. The only false note is the somewhat happy ending that truly breaks the mood. Otherwise, this is one of the darkest grittiest film noirs you’ll ever see.

By John Greco