Sunday, August 30, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Six Bridges to Cross (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

This summer I've been reviewing films from a trio of excellent Dark Side of Cinema Blu-ray collections released by Kino Lorber.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS (1955) is part of the Dark Side of Cinema IV set, along with CALCUTTA (1947) and AN ACT OF MURDER (1948). The first-ever home viewing release of CALCUTTA, starring Alan Ladd, is especially exciting. I'll be taking a look at both CALCUTTA and AN ACT OF MURDER here at a future date.

First, though, I've watched SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS for the first time ever thanks to this new Blu-ray release.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS, which is actually more a crime/cop story than a film noir, portrays the long-time relationship of a police officer, Ed Gallagher (George Nader), and a crook, Jerry Florea (Tony Curtis). They first meet in Boston during the Great Depression, when Ed is a rookie cop who shoots Jerry (played as a teenager by Sal Mineo) when he robs a store.

Ed and Jerry develop a friendship of sorts while Jerry recovers in the hospital, and over the years Ed attempts to set Jerry on the right path, including trying to get Jerry paroled out of prison into the army during World War II. That plan is unfortunately stopped in its tracks when research reveals that Jerry isn't a citizen.

Jerry values the friendship of Ed and Ed's wife Ellen (Julie Adams) and pays lip service to reforming, but he never manages to follow through. Despite that, the men remain connected over the years to varying degrees as Jerry periodically tips Ed off to information he can use to clear other crooks out of their neighborhood.

Ed thinks Jerry has finally turned his life around when Jerry marries Virginia (Anabel Shaw), a widow with three children. Jerry settles down to run a gas station...but things seem very suspicious when an armored delivery company across the street from the station is robbed of two and a half million dollars while Jerry and Virginia are eating dinner with Ed and Ellen.

This is a good if somewhat imperfect film with a solid performance by Nader and outstanding acting by Curtis, who breaks the viewer's heart with the varied emotions which cascade across his broken tough guy's face, no dialogue needed. In a just world, Curtis's performance would have merited an Oscar nomination. (Curtis would later receive his one and only nomination for 1958's THE DEFIANT ONES.) Jerry is the jerk you hate to love and love to hate all wrapped up in one package. Curtis is the key thing which makes the film worthwhile, although sticking with 90 minutes of a man incapable of reform is admittedly a bit wearing.

The movie has a good screenplay by Sydney Boehm, although as noted, it becomes a downer when Jerry repeatedly messes up despite helping hands and support. I was engrossed, but by the time the film moved into the final half hour I was ready for it to end, only because it didn't look like Jerry was going to end up anywhere positive.

There's also one curious thing in that Jerry's wife Virginia remains a background character with only a couple lines of dialogue until a climactic scene near the end of the movie. Given that she's important enough to cause Jerry to finally, after years of half-hearted yet failed attempts, to make a life-altering decision to "clean the slate" makes this a curious omission.

It seems as though at least a couple of the film's 96 minutes could have been spent developing their actual relationship. Instead all we know is what we hear from Jerry, including how thrilled he is to be a father to Virginia's children -- the long-ago shooting by Ed left him unable to father children himself. One wonders if this was a decision by the screenwriter or if a scene or two ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Julie Adams doesn't have a great deal to do as Ed's supportive wife, but she makes the most of small moments, whether it's visiting Jerry in prison while Ed is away during WWII or shooing an obnoxious investigator (Kendall Clark) out of their house when he implies Ed has benefited financially from his relationship with Jerry.

The supporting cast includes Jay C. Flippen as Ed's boss on the force, plus Harry Bartell, Tito Vuolo, Jan Merlin, Richard Castle, and William Murphy.

A fun bit of trivia is that the film's opening theme song was composed by Henry Mancini and actor Jeff Chandler, one of three films for which Chandler wrote the title song lyrics in 1955. (The others were FOXFIRE and THE LITTLEST OUTLAW.) While Chandler had a beautiful singing voice and sang the title track for FOXFIRE, the song heard in SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS was recorded by Chandler's friend Sammy Davis Jr.

Chandler did provide the opening narration, as he did for several other films in the early '50s; perhaps his background in radio helped Chandler cultivate an outstanding narrator's voice.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS was directed by Joseph Pevney, who also directed Curtis in a pair of films I really enjoyed at past Noir City Hollywood festivals, FLESH AND FURY (1952) and THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957). Pevney drew excellent performances from the actor in all three films.

The movie was filmed in widescreen black and white by William H. Daniels, with a number of scenes filmed on location in Boston.

Kino's Blu-ray is a good-looking print, although the opening credits sequence looked softer than I expected. Overall it looks quite nice, with a strong soundtrack.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Samm Deighan, a TV ad spot with Curtis, and two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

For more Dark Side of Cinema reviews, please visit my posts on THE PRICE OF FEAR (1956) from Volume II and ABANDONED (1949) and THE SLEEPING CITY (1950) from Volume III.

Watch for more Dark Side of Cinema reviews ahead, along with films from Kino's new Tony Curtis Collection.

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


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