Sunday, May 27, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Race Street (1948) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

George Raft and William Bendix star in the crime film RACE STREET (1948), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This film was released four years ago as part of the Archive's Film Noir Collection; it's always a good time for a fresh reminder that all Warner Archive films are "made on demand," so this title remains just as easily available today as when it was first released.

RACE STREET features a classic MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934) type theme, with Raft as shady San Francisco businessman Dan Gannin and Bendix as his lifelong friend Barney, a cop.

Dan is newly in love with Robbie (Marilyn Maxwell), a war widow, and he's just opening a fancy nightclub where his sister (Gale Robbins) is the featured performer. Dan plans to be a respectable businessman going forward, but then a new racketeering mob moves into town and kills Dan and Barney's childhood friend Hal (Harry Morgan, billed here as Henry).

Barney pleads with Dan to let him get to the bottom of the murder, but Dan's determined to investigate it himself. Meanwhile, the racketeers show up at Dan's apartment and begin pressuring him for protection money.

Is this a great film noir or crime film? Not really; there's nothing particularly unique or dynamic about it, but I liked the film nonetheless. It's a solid story with a couple nice twists and turns, which moves along in a brisk 79 minutes. I quite enjoyed it, a nice movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and my fellow film noir fans may also find this one worth checking out.

Raft is his usual stoic, deadpan self, but he's surrounded by a lively cast including Bendix, Maxwell, and Robbins. There are also a few good location shots of San Francisco, a definite plus. (There are also copious back projections in the driving scenes.) Robbie's apartment building was filmed at the Stanford Court Hotel, which is still there.

Bendix pops up with regularity, determined to solve the crime while keeping Raft out of trouble, and he and Maxwell keep things interesting. Robbins gets to sing a few numbers, although one of them is oddly filmed, as if she's floating over the nightclub. I'm not sure what that was all about! Her singing partner is played by Cully Richards.

One of the bad guys is played by former cowboy star Tom Keene, who switched to using the name Richard Powers in the mid '40s. Frank Faylen turns up as the top man in the racket -- or so we initially think -- and look for character actor Charles Lane as an untrustworthy telephone switchboard operator.

RACE STREET was directed by Edwin L. Marin. It was filmed in black and white by J. Roy Hunt.

The Warner Archive print of this film is solid; however, the soundtrack is somewhat muffled. I had to play William Bendix's opening narration twice to catch it all, and on the whole it's a weaker soundtrack than is normal for an Archive DVD. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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