Danny Haley's bookie operation is shut down, so he and his pals need money; when Danny meets Arthur Winant, a sucker from out of town, he decoys him into a series of poker games where eventually Winant loses $5000 that isn't his...then hangs himself. But it seems Winant had a shadowy, protective elder brother who believes in personal revenge. And each of the card players in turn feels a faceless doom inexorably closing in. Dark streets and sexy torch-singer Fran lend ambience. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the first poker scene, the very first card dealt by 'Danny Haley' lands on a short stack of chips. An instant later, after the cut to the wider overhead shot, the card is no longer on the stack of chips. (And the chip stack sizes and positions have changed). See more »
Dark City would probably be an unknown film today if it were not for the fact that it introduced Charlton Heston in the starring role in his very first film in Hollywood. If not for that it would rate as a passably good noir thriller.
In fact Dark City did not even lead to Heston getting his real screen break in his second film. After having done Dark City, Heston just happened to be passing by Cecil B. DeMille's trailer, one of many contract players toiling in the last decade of the big studio system at Paramount. DeMille who liked tall leading men for his films and had made up his mind to cast an unknown in the role of circus boss in The Greatest Show On Earth saw Heston and his height got him the part. Later on DeMille learned about Dark City and had it run for him and was convinced even more.
For a man who played such noble characters later on screen, Dark City presents Heston as a cynical gambler whose bookie joint got raided. Needing some working capital to get back on their feet, Heston, Jack Webb, and Ed Begley find a sucker in the person of Don DeFore and rope him into a poker game. DeFore loses his shirt and when he signs over money that isn't his to cover his debts, he later kills himself.
That sets psychotic older brother Mike Mazurki on the trail of those responsible. And Heston is desperate to get some kind of line on the brother before he winds up dead.
Part of the reason Dark City isn't a better film is precisely because Heston is not a nice guy. There certainly is no rooting interest in what happens to him. Especially when he starts romancing DeFore's widow Viveca Lindfors in an attempt to get information on Mazurki.
The film was later remade taking it out west as Five Card Stud with Dean Martin in the Heston role and Robert Mitchum taking Mazurki's part. The victim in this case was a card cheat who the other players lynch, though Dean Martin protests that. Doing it that way made you care more what happened to Martin than what eventually will happen to Heston.
Lizabeth Scott as nightclub singer/girl friend of Heston, Harry Morgan as a retainer at the bookie joint, and Dean Jagger as the homicide cop round out the cast.
It's interesting to speculate though what kind of turn Charlton Heston's career would have taken if Cecil B. DeMille hadn't spotted him that day on the Paramount lot.
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