Barry Sulivan is a cynical gangster who controls the Neptune Beach waterfront. He runs a numbers racket with the local soda shop owner: the police are in his pocket and the local hoods are on his payroll.
Chubunka is the self-made head of the rackets in the sleazy boardwalk community of Neptune City, a low-rent version of Coney Island. He has become infatuated with a sultry nightclub chanteuse and lavishes her with gifts and attention, spending money on her that might better go to maintaining his hold on his operation. His obsession with her, as well as his pride, clouds his judgment as Cornell, a much more ruthless hoodlum, moves in on Chubunka's territory, bribes and threatens his associates, and compromises his operation. As if in a Greek tragedy, the petty gangster's weaknesses conspire to cause his downfall. Written by
When Jammy gets the note from Cornell's hood, the rain is pouring all around him, but when the camera cuts into his face holding the umbrella, there are no raindrops hitting the puddles behind him. See more »
[Opening lines of first person narration as the camera dollies back from an ugly expressionistic painting]
That was what I was. I work the rackets... dirty rackets... ugly rackets. I was no hypocrite. I knew everything I did was low and rotten. I knew what people thought of me. What difference did it make? What did I care?
[Lying in bed looking at his face in a mirror]
I got scarred - sure! It can hurt a little when you fight your way out of a gutter.
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A big fish in a small pond finds his little world crumbling around him when a bigger fish swims into town. Opening with a monologue so misanthropic it could have been penned by Travis Bickle, this is a brutal and cynical film. Allied Artists reunited the stars of Suspense, Barry Sullivan and Belita, and the results are an improvement. Sullivan is cold and paranoid as the titular character, completely without trust or sympathy in anyone around him. Belita doesn't get to do any ice-skating this time around, but she is very good as his long-suffering gal, her devotion and sincerity eventually beaten down by his suspicions. I said earlier that I was looking forward to more of Joan Lorring, and I was glad to see her here. She doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but she has a wonderful part to play in the end. There's a couple of subplots to consider. John Ireland is a desperate gambler whose story hooks into Sullivan's at a crucial point. The part with Harry Morgan as a self-imagined Romeo is a bit more superfluous but provide some nice character moments. Also some fine supporting bits by noir regulars Elisha Cook, Charles McGraw and Sheldon Leonard (and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance by Shelley Winters). The Louis Gruenberg score is occasionally overwhelming but mostly superb. And Paul Ivano's cinematography makes the most of the often cheap-looking sets, a lot of beautiful stylization, especially in the rain-soaked opening and closing sequences. Perhaps a little too self-conscious and stagy at times, but a very well-done, gloomy and sometimes poetic film.
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