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At Bellvue Hospital, New York, an intern is shot in the head by an unknown killer. Inspector Gordon of the 9th Precinct finds no obvious leads but senses an undercurrent of mystery at the hospital; enter Detective Fred Rowan, whose medical background enables him to pose as an intern. Through wheels within wheels, Rowan finally penetrates to a secret, dirty racket...and nurse Ann Sebastian, whom he's been dating, may be mixed up in it. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
"The Sleeping City" (1950): a visionary work of excellence
Within New York City's Bellevue Hospital in post-World War Two America there is a drug racket, the interns are supplying "the white stuff" -- heroin -- to an intermediary who's selling it illegally, with the help of the head nurse. The interns get suckered into the racket but the head nurse and the bad guy villain do it for the dough. Great dialogue. Superbly dark setting. Fine, competent acting with a semi-documentary feel to their simple, profound human weaknesses and strengths. All of which is caped by the physical-psychological setting. The hospital is where patients are asleep with their illness and the weak may be manipulated by the strong. Or is it America itself which is "the sleeping city"?
"The Sleeping City" is film as a visionary reading of the corruptions inherent both in a medical system where people are overworked and underpaid, stressed to their breaking point and hence easily manipulated -- and where the single, myopic solution for all problems is money. Almost.
For into this mix comes Detective Fred Rowan, aka Richard Conte, in an under cover sting operation. Conte acts his grim, good-Judas role beautifully, tough as a slowly sniffing, plodding bull; secretive as a spider. In the end, Rowan's/Conte's tactics solve the immediate problem. Not without irony. For this story wisely offers no long-term strategy to the sleeping sickness of corruption at work in the vast hospital complex and in America's medical system. Good men and women, ordinary folk, are lost in a vast concrete moral maze. The world is far more grey than black and white. People die but are not redeemed. Doctors are lost and not replaced. All of society suffers, although a few of the guilty are punished.
Finally, the dialogue is superb. With give and take like: (-) "How is he doc?" (+) "Breathing from memory." And "Don't ever argue with a cop, son. Just answer his questions." And the ending rises out on a beautiful, urban long shot, dark and double-edged as a pleasing sunset with no rain, peace without quiet, and reminiscent of the city finalés of King Vidor's "The Crowd "(1928), Mike Nichols' "Working Girl" (1988) and other films which use the city setting for perfect enhancement of trenchant storytelling.
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