Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark

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Night and the City Review


Essential
"The night is tonight. The city is London," says the narrator, and you couldn't really ask for a better beginning. Like many a film noir, Night and the City opens on, yes, nighttime in the big city, and a man is being chased by dangerous persons unknown. There are sharp suits and swindlers, crooks and corruption, indeed, but this is far from your standard issue noir, with little in the way of a hero and far too much of a sense of a humor - all of which is just part of what makes this film as engrossing as it is.

The man being chased is Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark), a scam artist who hides out in the apartment of his girlfriend, Mary Bristol (a radiant Gene Tierney), either hoping to wait out the guy waiting for him downstairs or get Mary to pay him off. It takes a little while for the film to really settle into the scheme of Harry's that takes everything to its tragic denouement, but that's no problem, as Harry's night-to-night is entertainment enough. Semi-employed as a tout for the Soho club that Mary dances at, Harry spends nights luring tourists and other suckers into the club, and when not doing that, scours the city's underworld plotting the one killer idea to put him on easy street.

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Panic in the Streets Review


Excellent
In swampy New Orleans, a harried government health officer (Richard Widmark) tracks down two thieves (the inimitable Jack Palance and Zero Mostel) who are carrying a form of bubonic plague. A series of encounters lead our hero closer to the duo while facing increasing resistance from every side -- as no one wants the titular panic in the streets. Noir has been grittier (Mostel lends an inevitable humor to everything he touches), but this comparably early Elia Kazan movie indicates just how prodigious his talents behind the camera could be.

Murder on the Orient Express Review


Excellent
Classic Agatha Christie becomes a near-classic motion picture, as a dozen major stars are trapped on a snowbound train with what appears to be a killer on the loose. It's up to an absurdly made-up Poirot (Albert Finney) to unmask the murderer of a millionaire in this rich whodunit. Beautifully made and full of good one-liners, Ingred Bergman inexplicably won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a relatively forgettable "simple woman." Odd.

Judgment at Nuremberg Review


Excellent
In the grand tradition of courtroom dramas, Judgment at Nuremberg has the distinction of being probably the most "important" of them all -- even if it's not the most blatantly entertaining.

The three-hour film concerns the trial of four Nazi-era German judges accused of killing millions as part of the regime. The trial circumstances are tricky: The four accused didn't pull any triggers, nor were they in the upper echelons of power. They were middlemen, just signing off on the whims of Hitler. How guilty are they of murder? And so it is that American Judge Dan Hawood is flown in to lead a tribunal to determine their fate.

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Don't Bother To Knock Review


Excellent
This obscure thriller marks the screen debut of an unrecognizably young Anne Bancroft, playing second fiddle to Marilyn Monroe in her first role as a "serious actress."

Sure enough, Monroe proves she can act, and pretty seriously. While she appears to be her usual ditzy blonde at first, the film slowly proves itself to be something else entirely.

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The Alamo (1960) Review


Grim
Director/star John Wayne spends more time at the Alamo than I did as a junior high kid in Houston. This three-plus-hour epic feels longer than the battle itself, the most infamous part of the Texas Revolution, in which Texan troops were massacred by a much larger Mexican force. Wayne (here playing a roadkill-hatted Davy Crockett) is wildly overwrought (Jim Bowie: "My wife. She's... dead!" / Crocket: "I lived through it Jim. It's hard."), clumsy, and embarassingly directed -- and it doesn't get to the actual battle until the last 45 minutes of the film. Still, it's intriguing to see him on the losing side of a gunfight for once.

The Bedford Incident Review


Good
The Cold War was still fairly young when The Bedford Incident came out, but they already had the formula down cold. So to speak. Sidney Poitier is a reporter sent on what ought to be a routine job -- to cover a practice sail of a destroyer called the USS Bedford. But when the sadistic captain (Richard Widmark) discovers a Soviet sub -- maybe -- lurking off the coast, a game of cat and mouse ensues, with Poitier capturing it all for the papers. The ending is a real piece of work that comes out of nowhere, and even though the film is a little repetitive up to that point, it's all worth it for the titular "incident" in the end.

Pickup on South Street Review


Weak
It's probably blasphemy, but I'll say it anyway: Pickup on South Street is simply an unremarkable film noir.

Samuel Fuller, best known for his masterful psycho-ward thriller Shock Corridor, made Pickup because he (per his interview on the new Criterion DVD) wanted to get inside the mind of the pickpocket, show how he lives, and really show the audience what he's all about. That's an admirable goal, and the film's opening scenes -- wherein a seedy-looking Richard Widmark is spied plying his trade on a subway -- give us about all the insight anyone really needs into the pickpocket life.

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The Street with No Name Review


OK
Standard-issue noir. The Street with No Name takes great pains to narrate how its hero goes undercover to infiltrate a crime ring in "Center City," purported in the oppressive voice-over to be a real location where real crimes have occurred. Part straight-up gangster picture, part elementary school film strip ("The FBI solves crimes using a number of methods..."), The Street with No Name is an archetype of its genre, though unfortunately not a terribly memorable one.
Richard Widmark

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