Rocky Mulloy, back in town after serving 5 years of a life sentence for armed robbery, hopes to clear his friend Danny Morgan who's still in prison for the same crime. It won't be easy. Even the witness who cleared Rocky thinks he's guilty; Danny's glamorous wife Nancy, living in a sleazy trailer court, seems lukewarm about getting Danny back; cynical cop Gus Cobb just wants to stir things up in hopes that the missing "hot" $100,000 will surface. Plenty of tough talk, night scenes, deceptive dames and double crosses in this typical film noir. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
A peevish Powell seeks redress in Los Angeles' post-war underbelly
Among the male stars of the noir cycle, Dick Powell was the most peevish. When Humphrey Bogart smart-talked, it was with a wry bonhomie; when Robert Mitchum did it, it was with mumbled nonchalance. But when Powell snaps back a retort, you know he's got his dander up. This drastic change from his earlier days as happy-go-lucky hoofer began with his assumption (the first) of Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet and continued in Cornered, Johnny O'Clock, To the Ends of the Earth, and The Pitfall. His prickly temper informs Robert Parrish's Cry Danger, the last true noir he would appear in before affecting a pipe and cardigans in The Bad and the Beautiful.
Carrying a grip with the weight of the world in it, Powell steps off a train in Los Angeles; he's just spent five years in prison for a robbery and murder for which he took the rap. Luckily, a war-wounded and hard-drinking Marine (Richard Erdman), with whom he was supposedly drinking when the job was pulled, surfaced to give him an alibi. But Powell has never met this old buddy before.
Nonetheless, they throw their lot together and rent an armadillo-like trailer in a run-down park, where the wife of his old partner (Rhonda Fleming) lives, too. Powell has scores to settle, beginning with big-time bookie William Conrad who, he reckons, owes him $50-grand. Conrad pays off in classic mob fashion, by giving him a tip on a fixed race. The payoff money puts the police on his tail, as its marked bills are part of the take from the old robbery. But all traces of the illegal book have vanished, so Powell can't prove his innocence. He starts stalking Conrad for revenge, even though he's dodging pot-shots in the trailer park, while the duplicity that ensnared him lies much closer to home....
Cry Danger has a number of points in its favor, chief among them the pitiless photography of Joseph Biroc (it's decidedly the low-rent side of the City of Angels). Parrish keeps hustling the story along, nonetheless slowing down enough to allow Erdman a craftily underplayed, memorable performance (the same can't be said of Fleming, who simply lacks the wherewithal to function convincingly as femme fatale). There's a high quotient of violence, too particularly when Powell extracts a confession from Conrad through a one-sided game of Russian Roulette. Somehow, though, the ingenuity of the earlier part of the picture starts to peter out near the end, turning its oddly low-key ending into something of an afterthought.
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