Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Miami Story (1954)

Barry Sullivan stars in THE MIAMI STORY (1954), a thoroughly enjoyable docu-noir recently released on Blu-ray.

Sullivan plays Mick Flagg, a one-time gangster who's now a widower, living a quiet rural life with his young son (David Kasday, INVITATION TO THE DANCE).

With mob activity in Miami out of control, a group of concerned citizens comes together to support the police in rousting the gangsters out of the city. Among these men is an attorney (Dan Riss) who helped Flagg justly obtain an acquittal for murder; he appeals to Flagg to help rid the city of the mob.

Flagg agrees, feeling it's time to repay a debt to the attorney and society; he also wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his mortified son, who was unaware of his background -- and $50,000 guaranteed to go to his son won't hurt either.

Flagg parks his son with friends and makes a big splash arriving in Miami, shaking up top mobster Tony Brill (Luther Adler) -- who not so coincidentally is the man who framed Flagg for murder.

A young woman named Holly (Beverly Garland) who is looking for her missing sister Gwen (Adele Jergens) becomes inadvertently mixed up in the goings-on, as unknown to Holly, Gwen runs a prostitution racket for Brill.

THE MIAMI STORY is an action-packed 75 minutes, from the opening sequence with two Cubans murdered as they disembark from a plane at the Miami Airport. It's a pretty rough film as these things go -- at one point Holly is beaten horribly by Brill's men -- but it's also an exciting and interesting story.

Sullivan is absolutely tops as Flagg; watching him easily transform from mild-mannered dad to charismatic mob kingpin is a terrific viewing experience. I like Sullivan all the time but he's at his best when he's playing a somewhat shady man who does good things; the Western DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957) is another good example. While on his quest for justice he doesn't hesitate to smack not one but two different women around, not having time for niceties when lives are at stake; at the same time it's clear he also has a tender, more regretful side.

Jergens, another longtime favorite, is especially good here as a hard-bitten woman who's just a little too far past her prime and knows it. The movie is frank about her end of the business, hooking women up with "dates," and she's clearly not a nice lady, even when her own sister is involved.

It's fun to see George E. Stone, the Runt from the Boston Blackie series, as a small-time hood Flagg has the police spring from jail to be one of his deputies in his supposed crime business.

The film has one of those omniscient narrators I love in crime films; in this case it's William Woodson. Woodson also narrated TRAPPED (1949), which I saw at two different film festivals this year, and he was the narrator of the sci-fi classics IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956).

THE MIAMI STORY was directed by Fred F. Sears and filmed in widescreen black and white by Henry Freulich.

Establishing shots are used of the Sans Souci Hotel, which existed in Miami until 1996, when it became the Riu Florida Beach Hotel.

THE MIAMI STORY may be nothing particularly new, but it's executed with flair and I had a very good time watching it. Fans of this style movie in general -- and fans of Sullivan in particular -- should find it's right up their alley.

THE MIAMI STORY had a single-title release on DVD in 2014 in the Sony Choice Collection MOD (manufactured on demand) line.

It was just released on Blu-ray in the Noir Archive 9-Film Collection. This set is Volume 1, containing films from 1944 to 1954; Volume 2 (1954-56) is due out in July and, per Toby at The Hannibal 8, Volume 3 (1956-60) will be released later in the year.

I purchased the Blu-ray collection and if the other films look as good as THE MIAMI STORY, the set is a great deal; I've previously seen several of the titles thanks to film festivals or Turner Classic Movies. Visit Amazon for a list of the titles.


Blogger barrylane said...

Anything with Barry Sullivan is worth at least a cursory look and usually more than that.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I mostly know Sullivan from Alan Ladd's movies, but I've started seeing him crop up in all sorts of places lately and am becoming fond of him, so I will have to add this to my "see sometime" list :-)

9:11 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

My retro crush on Barry Sullivan has been getting out of hand the last few years. I recall this movie as having an awful lot going on for a short runtime.

2:57 PM  

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