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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Who's killing the young interns at Bellevue? Richard Conte dons scrubs to find out
Two well-known titles in the noir cycle are The City That Never Sleeps (1953) and While The City Sleeps (1956). Before them, there was the less familiar The Sleeping City. In this last (or first), what seems asleep is not so much New York as a city-within-a-city the huge old fortress of Bellevue Hospital, where, at night in its wards and among its staff, skulduggery is afoot. Bellvue opened its doors to the film's cast and crew, perhaps not wholly grasping that the resulting portrait might be less than reassuring to prospective patients. But it's not a story, at least explicitly, about malpractice.
A jumpy, distracted intern on his break goes outside to grab a smoke. He ends up with a bullet through his brain. Since the murder appears to be an inside job, an undercover department of the city police plants a detective (Richard Conte) in the hospital among the interns. He's had some medical training in the army and so should pass casual muster. Taking lodging in the building and going on rounds, he makes acquaintances. Among them are his bitter roommate, Alex Nichol, nursing some resentments about not being rich, either by birth or through wedlock; ward nurse Coleen Gray, raising a young son from an unhappy first marriage; and chummy elevator operator Richard Taber, who bunks down off the boiler room where he runs a book where the cash-strapped interns can play the ponies.
What Conte's after is not just the killer but the source of an infectious but non-microbial malaise that will claim Nichol, too, the night before he was to marry. Conte finds himself the prime suspect in his roommate's death and comes close to blowing his cover before his own superiors intervene. But Conte's suspicions about Taber's bookmaking operation aren't quite on the mark; it turns out that a 'white-stuff job' is the real racket....
Light and portable equipment developed during World War II made location shooting finally feasible, and the low-budget second-features in the post-war years pioneered its use. The Sleeping City affects a pseudo-documentary style that also came into vogue as a complement to the new cinema-verité look (a chase through the bowels of the massive institution stays particularly sinister). Despite a nifty shot of the new interns descending an endless stairwell en masse, the vast hospital looks underpopulated, especially during the graveyard shift. But the claustrophobia (the whole picture is shot in and around the hospital) pays off. The main characters aren't many, but not so few that they can't deliver a final twist.
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