|Index||8 reviews in total|
25 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
We are not helpless., 29 September 2001
It's strange how this Wise movie influenced "Invasion of the body
snatchers".The construction is exactly the same:a car belting with a couple
inside:close shots on their faces,full of fear.They take refuge in a police
station,and the man begins his story which he records on a tape.Like in
"body snatchers",there's a description of Kennington,a peaceful town,but
little by little,the witness,a journalist, reveals us what lies beneath.And
by the way,in 1945,Wise made a movie called "the body snatcher"!
The town seems to be under Sirak's thumb,a local tycoon who has a hand in shady and illegal business.The police is totally corrupted,and ,it's the last analogy with "Body snatchers" ,ordinary people seem contaminated too (the car salesman),or about to be(the journalist's partner).
A private eye tried to spill the beans,but he was murdered soon after having asked for the journalist's help.The murder scene is masterfully directed by Wise whose editing science is astounding:the private,driven back against a dead end street,in a symphony of black and white,by a mysterious car which will come back as an ominous messenger of death,then,abruptly,a trumpet bellowing out in a nightclub.Violence always takes place in the night,in Wise 's world (remember the end of "odds against tomorrow",or even the rumble in "west side story").
The characters are realistic to a fault.No stereotype,no real baddie (except for the gangsters whom we hardly see;their presence can be felt everywhere though,that is to say how great Wise is!)It seems that Sirak is actually overtaken by events.Characters of secondary importance are wonderfully depicted:Sirak's wife,whom we see only twice in the movie appears at first as an indifferent woman,then ,a fearful,pitiful one,an alcoholic at that.
The main message of the movie is that we are not helpless,as the private detective's wife told the journalist soon after her husband 's death.If the gangsters took over the town ,it's because of people (ordinary people) who are too afraid of getting mixed up in a fight against the strong and the mighty,or worse,because bribes make ends meet.
In 1952,with no star,a low budget,and a great modesty,Wise showed the way to modern film noir.
13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Riveting Noir Sleeper, 7 November 2003
Author: Kalaman from Ottawa
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Captive City" is a tense, modest, and scarcely appreciated noir sleeper, starring John Forsythe in his debut and directed with considerable skill and panache by Robert Wise. Supporting cast is primarily NY stage troupe, including Joan Camden, Harold Kennedy, Marjorie Grossland, Victor Sutherland, and the familiar Route 66 Vet, Martin Milner. In 1951, Estes Kefauver opened hearings in Congress into organized crime. This film, about an ambitious and crusading newspaper editor Jim (Forsythe) and his discovery of crime and corruption in small town America is a reflection of its era. Hollywood crusading editors were considered trite by many, although when you come to think of it just how many such films of that ilk can you recall?
In this little sleeper, as in most socially-conscious films of the 50s, facts which are commonplace even today (i.e. numbers rackets, police corruption, and sports betting) are revealed to be an integral part of middle town America. The Florida mob has moved in to take over, and someone rats them out to the editor Jim. Soon all hell breaks loose, with "respectable" members of the business community approaching Jim to lay it off and take it easy. Jim's partner wants to buy him out and get out of the business, because they're losing money and ad revenue. One night, Jim and his photographer Phil (played by Milner) sneak out to get a shot of the mob guys at their wire joint. Later, unsurprisingly, Phil is severely beaten and another friend a drunk is "accidentally" run over at night by a black Cadillac, one of the film's most brutal scenes.
The score by Jerome Moross is hauntingly melodic, then it turns sour, then strident (similar to Dmitri Tiomkin's in many ways), and adds just the right note of despair and panic to the film noir texture of this film. Almost nowhere is this film predictable or corny (except for the now familiar first-person narrative technique so often used in films like this one).
Riveting and near-perfect, "Captive City" deserves to be appreciated.
10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
It Could Happen in Your Town, 20 October 2008
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
When newspaper editor John Forsythe and wife rush into the police
station with an urgent tale told in flashback, I thought Invasion of
the Body Snatchers (1956). In fact, there are a number of similarities
between the two films. Here, however, the menace is not seeds from
outer space but plain old organized crime. The story is told in
grippingly fluent fashion by versatile director Robert Wise. I really
like the way the film uses unfamiliar faces in the important supporting
roles, giving the docu-drama a more authentic appearance.
Actually, the movie is rather educational since it reveals the various pressure points within a community where criminal influence can make a difference. Note how newspaper policy can be manipulated by advertising revenue; how church involvement can be influenced by congregation size; how police policy can be set by civic elders instead of the law. That is the point of the movie-- to show how a community can be corrupted by exploiting these various pressure points. At the time (1951), the Kefauver Committee on Organized Crime was making national headlines, accounting for the Senator's public service epilogue.
Surprisingly for a crime drama with noirish overtones, the violence and menace are mostly understated. Menace consists mainly of warnings to crusading editor Forsythe from ordinary-looking people. For me, however, the scariest part was neither the beating nor the hit-&-run, but the sudden transformation of affable used car salesman Andy (Jess Kirkpatrick). In social scenes showing the town's normality, Andy comes across as the typical friendly, outgoing salesman, but later, when the pressure's on, he slides into a startlingly sinister personality-- one of the many parallels with Body Snatchers.
Filming on location in grainy black&white amounts to a real plus for an authentic feel. Forsythe and Camden are excellent in their central roles, without going over the top. There's a low-key intensity to the narrative that rivets interest, but never reaches the emotional pitch of the sci-fi classic. In my book, this is one of those polished little B- productions that Hollywood used to turn out with some regularity. Too bad that they have no counterpart in today's over f-x'ed cinema.
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A simple and effective crime drama, 9 October 2008
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
John Forsythe stars in this excellent crime drama directed by Robert
Wise. Unlike most movies involving the mob, this one is quite a bit
different, as you never actually get to see many of the crooks and the
menace is much more implied than actual. This isn't bad, as it makes
the film seem less predictable and more realistic.
Forsythe is a newspaper owner in a small town where you'd never expect the mob. When a local private detective comes to Forstythe with stories of mobs and payoffs, the newspaperman can't believe it and only does a cursory investigation. But, when a bit later this detective is killed, Forstythe starts to wonder if there really is more to the story. Unfortunately for him, when he digs deeper, he puts his life on the line as well.
Senator Kefauver (who made a name for himself crusading against organized crime) gives an epilogue in which he says the story is true. I'd really like to know more, though IMDb doesn't have any information about the case. If anyone can give me more info, I'd appreciate it.
9 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
corrupt town, 28 March 2005
Author: RanchoTuVu from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Forsythe plays a small city newspaper editor in this in this humorless depiction of corruption and vice in paranoid post WW2 America. At one point, after discovering that the chief of police (Ray Teal) is going to cave in to the mob, he's reduced to beseeching the town clergy, as if they could stop the incipient corruption taking place under their noses. With a couple of convincing murders to give the film a modicum of tension, most notable being that of private eye Clyde Nelson (Hal K Dawson) who gets backed into a dead end street and then smashed by a Buick (I believe), the picture manages to convey a diminished essence of the threat the poor town is facing. Mostly though, we're taken on a moral crusade, which in the end goes to a US Senate hearing chaired by Estes Kefauver, who tries to give the film some more weight with an epilogue in which he assures us that the real life editor is alive and a credit to his profession. Directed by Robert Wise, this is no "The Set Up", but a borderline trite piece of pro-government Hollywood propaganda which has as its main villain a Jewish insurance broker (Murray Searak played by Victor Sutherland) whose small time numbers racket gets taken over by the Mafia, who are doing the same thing in countless other endangered smallish American cities of 30,000 or so. Some effective photography and a brisk pace that goes nowhere tend to keep you watching all the way to the disappointing finish.
Vice and corruption go hand in hand., 4 September 2012
Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert Wise directs this drama about crime in a small city. John Forsythe plays Jim Austin, a small town newspaper editor that is a crusader for all that is right, and is not afraid to fight what is wrong. A local private detective, Clyde Nelson(Hal K. Dawson), is working on a simple divorce case and uncovers something way more important. Nelson discovers a major gambling ring operating in the city. He believes that a small time mob boss Murray Sirak(Victor Sutherland) has his thumb on bookie joints that occupy almost every corner in town. Nelson brings this to Austin's attention, be doesn't put faith in the story until the detective is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Austin gets a somewhat cold shoulder when he goes to the police Chief(Ray Teal); its now up to him and his paper to rid the corruption and bring honest and respectable elements to his city. Other players: Joan Camden, Paul Brinegar, Ian Wolf and Martin Milner.
Later Period Film Noir Well Done, 30 December 2011
Author: AudioFileZ from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In reviewing "The Captive City" one must acknowledge the great director
Robert Wise. Wise will always be remembered for "The Sound of Music",
"West Side Story", and "The Day the Earth Stood Still". But, for this
viewer The Captive City fell through a crack as I'd never seen or heard
of it. Until now, that was my loss
However, it's always a joy to find
an old film in the noir vein with some "meat-on-the-bone", and this
Following on the heels of the excellent sci-fi drama "The Day the Earth Stood Still" may have hurt this film in the annals of time a bit. I can't say that I know what it did to the box office at the time, but it certainly had slipped through my grasp in the intervening years. It certainly had a limited budget as evidenced by the "C-list" cast, yet John Forsythe puts forward an admirable lead that the good story was hung on. I couldn't find out for sure how the screenplay was concocted, but I definitely get the feeling it was a composite of real events occurring at the time in many places in a post-war USA. In other words: The Captive City was based on fact if dramatized. I'd say it did a good job of coming off as just that. It reminded me of "The Phenix City Story" in many ways as a town was in the midst of increasing graft whereby "the mob" wanted a bigger cut with more control. Something needed to be done as things began to take a murderous turn. Enter newspaper editor Jim Austin played by the aforementioned John Forsythe. Austin is contacted by a private investigator whose simple divorce case turned ugly when the woman who hired him estranged husband's associates apply pressure on him to back-off. The investigator contacts Austin since the police are part of the problem. He feels he must turn to the "power of the press" in hopes he can make public outcry turn against the criminal element. The only problem is that Jim Austin thinks he's living in an idyllic town and he initially thinks the investigator is a bit of a crackpot sensationalist. Just about the time Austin has a gnawing suspicion that he's wrongly pegged the man he is found dead with the cause being a hit and run accident complete with no witnesses. The story predictably from here as against large odds Austin pressures the police department for not having an interest in solving the case. Even if you've guessed the rest it doesn't matter too much because the movie moves along nicely and keeps the viewer interested.
Wise has made a latter day excellent film noir drama with "The Captive City". The camera work is fantastic as it frames the subjects in a very involving and immediate way. Wise is one director with a wonderful eye for composition and he certainly chose correctly in using black and white in which to present it. You will not help but notice the depth of field in every shot, a technique learned from the great Orson Welles and augmented with the use of the special Hoag lenses whose focal length seemed to go on forever. Though not quite as overall involving as "The Phenix City Story" it is still quite good and highly recommended (in no way an embarrassment over half a century later). Wise was one of the finest directors of any time and even with a limited budget he proves it here. Also, of note is the introduction of young Martin Milner, who we would later come to love in the TV-series "Route 66" (reruns for me), as the Forsythe's staff photographer.
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mafia takeover of small town America, 1 July 2010
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Coming after the Senator Estes Kefarver Crime Committee
hearings "Captive City" shows how organized crime reached not only into
the major US cities like New York Chicago and Miami but small towns
like Kennington. pop. 300,000, as well in the heart of middle America.
This cancerous tumor in the American heartland was originally exposed by private detective Clyde Nelson, Hal K. Dawson, who at first didn't quite realize what he was getting himself and his wife , Geraldine Hall, into. It was Nelson's snooping around and talking too much that cost him as well as his old lady's life before the movie "Captive City" wasn't even half over! It was the local Kennington Journal editor Jim Austin, John Forsythe, who picked up the ball that Nelson dropped, by at first not heeding his warnings about police and political corruption, that finally got results. But only after a number of other people willing to testify against the criminal goings on in town ended up losing their lives like Mr. & Mrs. Nelson.
Hard hitting documentary style expose that according Sen. Kefavrer himself, who's seen at the conclusion of the movie, really happened! With Jim Austin and his wife Marge, Joan Camden, running for their lives as their being chased by members of the Mafia Fabretti, Victor Romito, Mob all the way from Kennington to Washington D.C some 600 miles away! Fabretti a Miami mobster and former member of the notorious Brownsville Brooklyn Murder Inc. has taken over Kennington and installed a number of bookie joints in town who were being camouflaged behind legitimate business fronts. One of the bookie parlors was run out of insurance man Murray Sirak's, Victor Sutherland, storefront office. It was Clyde Nelson's bad luck to uncover what was going on behind the scenes at Sikak's place that had him go to the town's police chief Gillette, Ray Teal,that lead to his murder! Nelson didn't know that Chief Gillette was in on the corruption by being paid off, and in the pocket, by the Fabretti Mob.
****SPOILERS**** Now on the run Jim & Marge Austin's only hope is to get to Washington D.C in time to testify against the mob that Fabrrtti is a member off in order to stay alive! That's before Fabretti's goons get them first. One of the first Hollywood movie that actually used the word "Mafia" a word that was never mentioned once in the 1972 mega mobster hit "The Godfather", that was released twenty years later, in describing the hoodlums that were trying to both undermine corrupt and finally takeover peaceful and crime free little Kennington USA. It was brave people like Clyde Nelson and later newspaper editor Jim Austin who put their lives on the line and in many cases lost them that put the likes of Fabretti with the help of the Kefarer Committee out of business and behind bars!
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