Chicago cop Johnny Kelly, dissatisfied with his job and marriage, would like to run away with his stripper girlfriend Angel Face, but keeps getting cold feet. During one crowded night, Angel Face decides she's had enough vacillation, and crooked lawyer Biddel has an illegal mission for Johnny that could put him in a financial position to act. But other, conflicting schemes are also in progress... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
...is but one of the many elements in this quirky film that makes it SO enjoyable. The plot is complex, but still masterfully laid out, the dialogue is clean and effective, and the imaginative direction, lighting, cinematography and editing clearly place "City" in the ranks of minor classics.
In fact, you are rarely aware that this was a low-budget Republic Studios pic. There's one scene near the end...the standard "calling all cars" scene in the police station, which could have been shot with a single guy at a microphone with a bare wall behind him; instead, we see a bee-hive of activity, with several radio cops reflected in a magical labyrinth of glass panes, with shadowy figures passing through the hallway in back of them. It's seemingly insignificant details such as this that keep "City" bristling with intense visuals and character interplay from beginning to end (yeah, the scene with William Talman breaking into Edward Arnold's office at night could have been edited down to about half its length, and the continually recurring stock footage of the police car's POV while racing past a bunch of 1940's parked cars is pretty comical).
Having a heavyweight actor like Arnold in a pivotal role lends acting "gravitas"; William Talman, an actor I've never really cared for, is superb---subtle, cunning, and ultimately maniacal. The confusion between John Kelly Sr. and Jr. as the tension builds is but one of the masterful plot devices, and the subplot of the Mechanical Man (Wally Cassell) and his dreams of an idyllic life with his lady love amidst the wonders of nature is positively brilliant, as is his change of heart and willingness to sacrifice himself for a noble cause. Cassell's physical skill is as impressive as the emotional sensitivity he brings to the role* And how about mother-in-law's offstage nagging of Gig Young? I found it subtly creepy, almost like mother's voice in PSYCHO.
On top of it all, we have the Chill Wills character; you must decide for yourself if it helps or harms the film; I took it as just another off-beat element in this imaginative story of a single night in Chicago. Who knows?--maybe the whole thing was a bad dream from which Gig Young wakes up at the end.
Only Mala Powers disappoints in her role; she was rather miscast as the tough, world-weary dame, though her more sensitive scenes are fine.
* NOTE - The December 22nd, 1960 episode of TV's June Allyson Show was entitled "SILENT PANIC", and featured HARPO MARX as a deaf-mute who works at Christmastime as a Mechanical Man in a department store window; he also happens to be the only eyewitness to a murder on the street. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the hour-long show fails miserably to live up to its fascinating premise. But I wonder how many other films, radio shows, stories, etc have used this novel plot device over the years.
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