Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Down Three Dark Streets (1954) - A ClassicFlix Blu-ray Review

The highly entertaining "docu-noir" DOWN THREE DARK STREETS (1954) was released this spring as a restored Blu-ray by ClassicFlix. I enjoyed catching up with it today!

One of the stars of DOWN THREE DARK STREETS is Ruth Roman, who starred in another ClassicFlix restoration, 5 STEPS TO DANGER (1957). I loved that one and think DOWN THREE DARK STREETS might be even more fun. Honestly, I love them both; they're not classics but are simply the kind of well-made, entertaining crime films I really like to watch.

I first saw DOWN THREE DARK STREETS in 2013, and I think I enjoyed it even more this time. It's exactly my kind of movie, watching hard-working federal agents trying to crack cases in interesting 1950s Los Angeles locations.

FBI Agent Zack Stewart (Kenneth Tobey) is working on three cases when he's killed in the line of duty. Fellow agent John "Rip" Ripley (Broderick Crawford) takes over the investigations, which include a widow (Roman) being blackmailed for life insurance money; a woman (Martha Hyer) being watched in hopes she'll lead the feds to her murderer boyfriend (Joe Bassett); and a man (Gene Reynolds) framed for a crime, who's afraid to talk to the police until his blind wife (Marisa Pavan) is threatened.

Reynolds and Pavan, incidentally, are still with us at the ages of 85 and 86, respectively.

The earnest praise heaped on the FBI by the film's narrator (William Woodson) is frankly rather charming, though it's also bittersweet viewed from today, knowing that some of the agency's top officials would later abuse the public's trust. Some of the intensive manual research done by the FBI in those pre-computer days is shown in the film and is truly impressive.

I just reviewed THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950), a crime film with excellent San Francisco locations; DOWN THREE DARK STREETS is the equivalent of that one in terms of providing fascinating looks at 1950s Los Angeles. My favorite thing in the film is the long-gone L.A. subway -- the Los Angeles Inter-Urban Electric Railway -- and I also loved seeing an Orbach's, a department store I remember from my childhood. There's also some shooting at the base of the Hollywood sign!

My only disappointment regarding this film is the early disappearance from the movie of the likeable Tobey (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD). It was necessary for story reasons but I wish they'd bumped off someone else and left him in the movie!

The cast includes Casey Adams, William Schallert, Harlan Warde, William Johnstone, and Claude Akins.

The screenplay was by Gordon and Mildred Gordon, based on their novel. They also wrote the screenplay for EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962), in which, curiously, Glenn Ford also played an FBI agent named John "Rip" Ripley.

DOWN THREE DARK STREETS was directed by Arnold Laven and filmed by Joseph Biroc. It runs 85 well-paced minutes.

The Blu-ray is an outstanding restored widescreen print. There are no extras, but this lovely print of a fun movie is a recommended "must have" for fans of the genre.

DOWN THREE DARK STREETS is also available from ClassicFlix on DVD.

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Anonymous Kristina said...

I like this one a lot too, what a good cast--Martha Hyer gets a nice role. Glad you pointed out the neat connection to EXPERIMENT IN TERROR. I recall a twitter scolding one time, after revealing that Tobey's character dies early in the movie--apparently that's a huge "spoiler."

7:24 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This is one good movie. Like you I couldn't believe that Kenneth Tobey got shot so early on. I hated that. But then I like Tobey.
Martha Hyer knocks your socks off.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Kristina, glad you've seen and enjoyed it too! That's so funny what you say about Tobey, I actually debated how much to say but decided that since he dies so early and that pretty much drives what follows in the rest of the movie, it would be silly to "hide the ball," so to speak. :)

I agree, Margot, I didn't like him getting shot!! And Hyer really does have a nice part. Just a really enjoyable movie.

Best wishes,

4:11 PM  

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