Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Captive City (1952) at the Noir City Film Festival

With the TCM Classic Film Festival behind us, it's time for a look back to the last night of the 2016 Noir City Film Festival!

The evening of Sunday, April 24th, began with a "special encore screening" of TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949). The occasion was a celebration of the new Flicker Alley Blu-ray/DVD releases of both TOO LATE FOR TEARS and WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950).

The final double bill, a separate ticket a bit later in the evening, consisted of two movies I'd never seen. THE CAPTIVE CITY (1952), originally distributed by United Artists, was paired with a brand-new print from Universal Pictures of BUY ME THAT TOWN (1941). Like all the other films at this year's Noir City Festival, they were both shown in 35mm.

I was delighted to be joined at the screening by my friends Aurora, Annmarie, and Kellee, who were all in town a few days ahead of the TCM Fest.

THE CAPTIVE CITY has an exciting opening, as Jim and Marge Austin (John Forsythe and Joan Camden) race to safety as their car is tailed by unknown bad guys.

The couple arrive in a small town and pull into the local police station, where they beg for protection. While waiting for safe escort to a government hearing on organized crime, Jim borrows a tape recorder and begins to record his story, just in case he doesn't make it to the hearing.

The opening reminded me instantly of the later sci-fi film INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), which begins with Kevin McCarthy attempting to warn people of impending doom and then telling his story, at which point the action shifts back in time to a nice, seemingly ordinary town.

THE CAPTIVE CITY begins in very much the same way, it's just that rather than "seed pods" and aliens, the nice, ordinary little town is being overrun by organized crime. I was interested to later read various commentaries in which others mentioned the structural similarity with BODY SNATCHERS.

Jim, who owns the local paper, initially can't believe the stories he's hearing from Clyde (Hal K. Dawson). Jim writes off Clyde's stories of being followed and harassed as the rant of someone who's a bit of a nut.

Bit by bit, however, Jim begins to realize how deeply the town has become enmeshed in corruption. His enterprising young staff photographer (Martin Milner) is badly beaten after taking some incriminating photos...and Clyde ends up dead.

Jim's partner, who runs the business end of the operation, warns that rocking the boat with an investigation is bad for advertising, but Jim won't stop. It's an increasingly dangerous situation, in which even the local police chief (Ray Teal) is possibly suspect.

THE CAPTIVE CITY is a taut and engrossing film directed by the great Robert Wise. The movie has a no frills, docudrama style, which includes an ending with Senator Estes Kefauver speaking to the camera. That aspect seems a bit amusing from the vantage point of 2016, but it's historically interesting.

The movie was filmed in stark black and white by Lee Garmes in Reno, Nevada. It runs 91 minutes.

The film has a score by Jerome Moross, best known for THE BIG COUNTRY (1958).

The supporting cast includes Harold J. Kennedy, Victor Sutherland, Ian Wolfe, Geraldine Hall, Marjorie Crossland, and Jess Kirkpatrick.

THE CAPTIVE CITY is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

It may also be streamed via Amazon Instant Video.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I saw "CAPTIVE CITY" for the first time only recently via a DVD with forced subtitles. After awhile I found they didn't bother me too much.
A really enjoyable 'expose' and John Forsythe was excellent as Jim. Similar in many ways to Phil Karlson's terrific "PHENIX CITY STORY" of 3 years later. Senator Kefauver was involved in that film too.
And isn't that cop in the still Paul Brinegar (best known from his long-running role as George Washington Wishbone in 'RAWHIDE'??).

11:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry! Glad you know you found this movie interesting as well. I'm glad it was good enough to distract you from the forced subtitles!

I have a set with PHENIX CITY STORY; it's been on my "to watch" list! Hope I can get to it this year.

THE CAPTIVE CITY also ties in nicely, in terms of its examination of the role of the media, with TRY AND GET ME, which I just watched again via the new Olive DVD. My review of that was just posted.

I don't know Paul Brinegar by name, will keep my eye out for him in the future!

Thanks much for adding your thoughts on this movie!

Best wishes,

7:37 PM  

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