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Every where Richard Widmark's loser character Harry Fabian turns in this film he finds golden opportunities smothered in bad timing. Widmark utilizes a variation of that smarmy, snickering sinister giggle-chuckle that was memorialized in Kiss of Death.It serves the actor well in this film in its toned-down form but offers up a sort of pathetic body language for Fabian, the character. It may be that this American ex-patriot character is just way out of his depth. His hucksterism is not much appreciated by many of his acquaintances in this seedy London underworld. If Harry Fabian would simply accept that he is destined to be a 3rd rate shill and stooge,he might have fund some small pleasures. However, his mind is a shade too quick and his ambition too pumped. He's a user with not a shread of remorse about stepping on others, ripping them off, keeping one tiny step ahead of exposure. This is a superb film, squalid and sinister in its portrayal of greed, corruption and betrayal.
For some reason Night and the City doesn't seem to the credit it
deserves; possibly because it was director Jules Dassin's last American
film before being blacklisted as a Communist. I wasn't born until the
Cold War was winding down, but it seems that with movies like Night and
the City to his credit, we could have turned a blind eye even if he
really was a Commie.
Honestly this film deserves to rank up there with the likes of The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, or Out of the Past. The scenes of our "hero" Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark, at his best) being chased through London's East End are as starkly beautiful as anything you'll ever see on film. For several minutes there isn't a single shade of gray, everything is literally black or white and the camera itself seems to have joined in hunting Harry. Then there's the long, semi-grotesque wrestling scene that took me totally by surprise, it's like something out of Fellini.
Widmark is utterly believable as Fabian, a charming two-bit grifter who works as a "club tout" but hatches one ill-fated get-rich-quick scheme after another. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, there isn't a cardboard character in the bunch, except maybe Harry's girl Marry (Gene Tierney) though its really more a flaw in the character than the actress. Mary's saintliness may be the writers' only slip-up though, every other character has the sort of depth that makes the film a joy to watch. They inexorably follow their own motivations, which, of course, rely on those of someone else, who inevitably has a goal of his or her own, which will eventually derail the plan of someone whom someone else is counting on (actually, the film is a little less twisted than this review ;-) Criterion has just (2/05) recently released Night and the City and never has the phrase "filmed in glorious black and white" been more appropriate. Before this film seemed to lurk in the shadows of AMC or TCM, only occasionally showing its face, as if it were one of the genre's minor works. Now, if you haven't seen it you have no excuse, and you're only hurting yourself.
This gritty film, exposing the world of small time crooks in London, is a real masterpiece of film noir. The director, Jules Dassin, has captured this dark, dirty world perfectly and the black and white cinematography is superb. Richard Widmark is as despicable here as he was as Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death"...it is a coup of casting. Francis Sullivan as Phil is great as the nightclub owner for whom Widmark shills and Googie Withers, one of my favorites of British film, is awesome as the unfaithful wife. Gene Tierney is wasted as Widmark's girlfriend...she does not seem to have much to do. Other support players are strong and you get to see Herbert Lom without his toupee! This is one of the best in the film noir genre and the ending pulls no punches. This is not a happy, feel good film. Highly recommended.
The rise and fall of small-time hustler Harry Fabain is chronicled in this
noir thriller by Director Jules Dassin.
This was Dassin's American swansong, completed just before being named by fellow director Ed Dmytryk before HUAK as a "communist," thus ending Dassin's American career.
He brought to "Night and the City" all the technique he acquired over years of quality movie making. Although born in Connecticut and raised and trained in the US, Dassin's work always had the look and feel of his European counterpart, Carol Reed.
The script here is a decent one with surprise turns, avoiding predictability. Franz Waxman's high pitched score adds excitement to the proceedings and Gene Tierney is a creditable second lead.
Yet it's Richard Widmark on whose shoulders the success of this film ultimately rests. It's not an easy role, as Fabian's character runs the gamut of emotional range as he struggles to wheel and deal his petty schemes amongst assorted lowlife types.
Widmark proves he's well up to the challenge, creating a strong portrait of a small time hood striving for positive payoffs through his callous cleverness.
It's a reminder of how talented and resourceful this actor is, and how he and Dassin meshed to create a film of impact.
Dassin, of course, went on to France after this to engage in a fabulous European period, while Widmark struggled to find scripts worthy of his formidable talents, which turned out to be few and far between.
My favorite Richard Widmark performance on the screen and probably his
best work is Night and the City. This was director Jules Dassin's last
film before settling in Europe in the wake of the blacklist and it has
a first rate cast tuned to a fine pitch, like an orchestra without a
bad note in it.
Harry Fabian is this smalltime American hustler/conman who's settled in London and always working that middle ground netherworld between the law and outright gangsterism. He really isn't a very likable man and the trick is to keep the audience care what's happening to him. This is the test of a great actor and Widmark is fully up to the challenge.
Fabian while working one of his cons overhears a piece of information about the father/son relationship between champion Graeco-Roman wrestler Gregorius the Great and gangster/promoter Cristo who is the London version of Vince McMahon. He cons Gregorius into thinking he wants to promote old style wrestling like Gregorius used to do. That con game sets in motion the events of the film that ultimately end in tragedy.
The cast is uniformly fine, but one performance really stands out, that of Stanislaus Zbyzsko as Gregorius. He was a real professional wrestling champion back in the day when it was real. Zbyzsko invests so much of his own life and reality as Gregorius that he's really something special. His scenes with Herbert Lom as his son are so good they go far beyond the plane of mere acting. It's some of the best work Lom has ever done as well.
How there weren't a few Oscar nominations from this is a mystery for me. For those who like film noir, this should be required viewing. Especially for you Richard Widmark fans.
It took a second look for me to enjoy this movie as it didn't really
appeal much to me on the first viewing. Perhaps a better picture
helped. If I had the Criterion DVD, it would be much better I'm sure
but, for now, I'll have to settle for the VHS. This is a very noir-ish
with a lot of dark scenes, so a good transfer is a must.
Most of the action takes place at night in London alleyways, nightclubs and gymnasiums. The storyline is a downer, that's for sure. It is a rough and sometimes depressing story. Richard Widmark, as "Harry Fabian," has the starring role and plays a real loser, a desperate man who always has a scheme concocted but usually messes up. Some critics think this is Widmark's best performance ever. Francis Sullivan is interesting as the nightclub owner. Gene Tierney gets second billing but doesn't have much of role in here.
Some memorable scenes include a wrestling match with big Mike Mazurki and "Gregorious." I'm not much into wrestling but this was an amazing match, extremely intense.
This film is a bit different from most American-based film noirs. It's not a pleasant story, it's moody, and it has a certain fascination to it.
In London, the swindler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is an ambitious
loser, frequently taking money from his girlfriend Mary Bristol (Gene
Tierney). When he meets the famous Greco-Roman wrestler Gregorius the
Great (Stanislaus Zbyszko) in the arena of his son and the wrestling
lord Kristo (Herbert Lorn), he plans a scheme to become successful. He
cheats Greorious, promising clean combats in his own arena, and the old
man accepts the partnership. However, without money to promote the
fight, he invites his boss and owner of a nightclub Phil Nosseross
(Francis L. Sullivan) to be his partner, but is betrayed and his
business fails ending in a tragedy.
"Night and the City" is a great film-noir, with many twists and another excellent performance of Richard Widmark. The story shows the underworld of London, with low-lives, hustlers, beggars, gamblers and other amoral characters through a magnificent black and white cinematography. The direction of Jules Dassin is sharp and the screenplay perfectly develops the characters and the story in an excellent pace. The Brazilian distributor Oregon Filmes / Fox has one of the best collections of movies labeled "Tesouros da Sétima Arte" ("Treasures of the Seventh Art"). Unfortunately, most of their DVDs shamefully have problems while playing the film, maybe because of the lack of quality of the laboratory they use. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Sombras do Mal" ("Shadows of Evil")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How sublime!This is without a doubt,Jules Dassin's towering
he only made this work,his name would deserve to be remembered
Richard Widmark will leave you on the edge of your seat!How can an actor be so good?Just compare him to Today's stars.Widmark's performance is one of these you never forget.A washout trying to make it big in the London underworld,he's some kind of mythomaniac,sometimes verging on madness,with an almost Shakespearian grandeur.His fate seems sealed when the story begins.We do know he won't work it out.A nightmarish bunch surrounds him and are like spiders watching a fly:the obese Francis L. Sullivan,a grotesque and fatty caricature who hates Widmark because his wife (Withers) has a crush on Widmark and provides him with funds;this two-bit femme fatale,who thinks she can escape her wealthy fatso.the two wrestlers ,fighting on the ring like animals ;there's nothing human in this fighting :you've never seen a thing like that.
Almost every sequence should be studied in detail but I will only mention three of them: -After a bestial -an euphemism-fight,the old wrestler asks his son to close the window because he's cold,so cold..But the window is closed and the son only pretends to obey.He dies in his arms.
-Widmark's final run is the most beautiful ever filmed.Close shots ,apocalyptic landscapes,impressive framings.It's the whole underworld against a single man,who cannot rely on anyone.Widmark's despair,hope against hope ,his final fit of anger when he wants his girlfriend to get the reward,are among the best fil m noir scenes.
-When Googie returns home and finds her hubby dead ,she thinks she 's free at last.But the horrible shrew is here ,like a spider on her web,she's the sole legatee,and now she's got the prodigal woman under her thumb.
There's another world ,but we are only allowed to catch transient glimpses of it.People complain about Gene Tierney's rather small part on the site.She does not enter the underworld,the subcity,she stays away from it.She's Widmark's last chance,but as the movie begins,it's already too late.Only at the end ,Tierney tries to walk across the mirror,only to discover it's a blind alley.Her character is not romantic enough,all she dreamed about was a cosy life in a sweet cottage in the heart of the country.She falls in her neighbor's arms-a neighbor who's got a money-box in the shape of a bank!-
After such a peak ,the only way for Jules Dassin was down.And alas that was what happened:"du rififi chez les hommes" has still got a good reputation.The Melina Mercouri era brought at best entertaining works (celui qui doit mourir;Topkapi) at best,dumb and vulgar comedies (la loi;never on Sunday)at worst."Dream of passion" his last one,was pretentious to a fault :trying to link Greek mythology (Medea)with the story of a woman who killed his children.He had not realized that "night and the city" with his monsters and his lonesome hero,whose fate is sealed was already a Greek tragedy ,and so much so much more.
The more films I see by Jules Dassin, the more I wonder why he isn't
better known or regarded as a director. It's been 56 years since he was
blacklisted by the McCarthy-ites, but his reputation never seems to
have recovered, at least not in the United States. Hopefully, more DVD
releases like the Criterion version of Night and the City will bring
deserved attention to his excellent body of work.
I want to call Night and the City a classic film noir, which it is, but that seems too limiting. It might be better to say that Dassin uses film noir to dig a little deeper into our human strivings and sufferings. There's a lot of sweat and desperation in the midst of this entertaining and well-paced film, and not just on the part of Harry Fabian, the small-time hustler who dreams of being great. We encounter a typically smooth and dangerous mobster who also happens to have a difficult relationship with his disappointed father. A wealthy but thugish club owner, who might be a caricature in another film noir, can't seem to express his powerful and animalistic feelings for his beautiful wife. She seems like a scheming femme fatale but turns out to have an almost quaint dream of her own. In the end, we're in the muck and mire of human foibles, a kind of low-level Shakespearean tragedy that we all live out to one degree or another. This story just happens to take place in the shadowy underworld of 1950 London.
There's a poignancy to this film that separates it from others in the noir genre. Part of this lies in the strong writing, part in the excellent acting ensemble. This is one of those rare and remarkable films where the secondary and minor actors seem like they were all giving the performance of their career. Richard Widmark probably could have done with a bit more subtlety as Harry Fabian; he feels a bit histrionic at times, but his manic energy is important to the pace of the film and the feeling of increasing desperation. Gene Tierney and Hugh Marlowe don't get to do much and seem a bit lost among all the other great roles. In an interview with Dassin included with the DVD, the director says he put Tierney in the film as a favor to producer Daryl Zanuck, adding her role at the last minute, and it feels like that at times. But, hey, it's Gene Tierney.
Herbert Lom delivers a chilling performance as Kristo the mobster, and Stanislaus Zbyszko is a miracle as his father, the once-famous wrestler Gregorious who can't stand that his son has helped kill the great tradition of Greco-Roman wrestling with his shoddy wrestling matches. The great Mike Mazurki does well as The Strangler, and the wrestling match he gets into with Gregorious may be the highlight of the film. Zbyszko and Mazurki were both former wrestlers, and the realism of their fight heightens the emotional intensity of the scene. It's the brutal scruff and claw of existence brought to life on screen for a few powerful moments.
I had never seen Francis Sullivan before, so I was pleasantly surprised by his masterful work as the club owner Nosseross. Googie Withers also does a great job as his wife Helen, managing to bring some good shading to an underwritten role. And some of the best moments of the film are delivered by minor characters such as Anna, the woman who works down on the docks; Figler, the "King of the Beggars;" and Googin the forger.
After a brief voice-over intro, Dassin starts the action with a bang, as one man chases another through the darkness of late-night London, across what looks like the plaza in front of the British Museum (???). The camera angle on this opening is fantastic, the kind of shot you want to turn into a poster and hang on your wall. And the camera work remains excellent throughout the film. The final long sequence of Harry running all over London in the foggy darkness, with the whole world seemingly after him, is an exciting and powerful climax. Quite a memorable ending to this excellent film.
Jules Dassin no doubt established his reputation with this picture, the
best he ever made, a virtually flawless and absorbing film noir with
multiple plot twists and a great collection of characters.
Richard Widmark, a real-life war hero, always preferred hero roles in movies; but he made his screen reputation playing a sleazy rat in his first movie, and he does an even better job in this film.
Although the story is great, I was somewhat distracted by noticing the relentless excellence of the cinematography, lighting, direction, acting, et cetera.
Despite the summary, there is very little professional wrestling on screen; but what there is will teach you a lot.
Gene Tierney, a true superstar of the 1950's, does not have much screen time in this one; but what she's got is most welcome.
Hollywood in 2007 would have no ability to make a movie like this one. What we get now is a silly bloodbath from the Coen Brothers --- posing as excellence. Thank God for the oldies.
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