Sunday, April 01, 2018

Tonight's Movie: While the City Sleeps (1956) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

A terrific cast stars in Fritz Lang's WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956), just released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

It had been nearly a decade since I saw this film, which enjoyably melds newsroom politics with a crime story. In 2008 I called it "newspaper noir"; on reflection, the film noir elements are pretty light, but whatever you call it, it's a lot of fun. While not a great film, it's nonetheless solid entertainment, as one might expect given the cast and director.

The story pits three top employees at a multimedia company -- played by George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, and James Craig -- against one another for the opportunity to run the company, newly inherited by the hapless Walter Kyne (Vincent Price). Kyne not only doesn't know much about running the company, he also doesn't know his gorgeous trophy wife (Rhonda Fleming) is two-timing him with one of his employees (Craig).

All three men attempt to burnish their chances at the top job by solving a series of murders by the "lipstick killer" (John Drew Barrymore, billed here as John Barrymore Jr.). They're variously aided -- or not -- by Pulitzer-winning TV reporter-commentator Ed Mobley (Dana Andrews) and "women's columnist" Mildred Donner (Ida Lupino), along with Mobley's fiancee (Sally Forrest) and a police detective (Howard Duff, who was long married to Lupino).

Given his well-known struggles with alcohol, it's a bit disconcerting watching Andrews so frequently plastered in this, but otherwise it's quite entertaining; it has many familiar elements, including a chase through sewers, but that's part of the fun. There's nothing very surprising in this one, but it's a good excuse to spend time with a great cast doing their thing. I like it and will be returning to it again the future.

Besides Andrews, who's elegant and interesting even when his character's had too much to drink, I especially enjoy Lupino as the calculating Mildred and Mitchell as the "old school" newspaper editor. His late-film triumph getting a story on the street ahead of Sanders' wire service is delightful.

One of the interesting elements of a film like this is contemplating how much -- and how little -- has changed in media in the last 60 years. Now it's a race to get stories onto the internet rather than the streets, but sensationalizing facts and headlines? That hasn't changed at all, it's just done for clicks now, rather than dimes or quarters.

The movie was filmed in black and white by Ernest Laszlo. Casey Robinson's screenplay was based on a novel by Charles Einstein. The movie runs 100 minutes.

The widescreen Blu-ray print looks terrific. (Those who are interested might want to scroll to the end of a recent column on the film by Glenn Erickson for an explanation of RKO-Scope and Superscope formats!) The disc includes the trailer, which is particularly welcome as it was not on the Warner Archive's previous DVD release of this title.

In the near future I'll be reviewing the new Blu-ray release of the other film made that year by Lang and Andrews, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

2 Comments:

Blogger Vienna said...

As you say, it's good to spend time with this all star cast. Nice to see Sally Forrest, a protege of Ida Lupino, and I liked John Drew Barrymore. Wonder why his career didn't last longer.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Vienna!

I'm hoping to see Forrest in Lupino's HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL (1951) next weekend.

For more background on this film, Raquel has an interest post up at Out of the Past, including a quote by Rhonda Fleming on her role in the film.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:30 PM  

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