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When ex-cop Steve Rollins is released from San Quentin after five years, his only thoughts are of revenge on the men who framed him for manslaughter. Back in San Francisco, his quest for the truth brings him up against ruthless waterfront gang boss Victor Amato. Written by
Ian Harries <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In Hell on Frisco Bay Alan Ladd who also produced this film plays an ex-cop who's served five years on a manslaughter rap for which he was wrongly convicted. Of course as in the case of noir films he's on a mission to find the real killer and clear himself.
It doesn't take him long to sniff out a trail that leads to San Francisco underworld boss Edward G. Robinson. Robinson is easily the best in the cast. He's as malevolent as he was in Little Caesar or at least in Key Largo.
It's not that Hell on Frisco Bay is a bad film, but it's all so routine for Alan Ladd. He would not transition into character roles as he hit his forties. His legion fans which were gradually dwindling by this time still wanted their guy in action hero parts.
He's not terribly animated here. I wouldn't have been surprised if he was ill during the making of this. In a way that might have helped the believability factor. Five years in jail would have given him a certain prison pallor to his complexion.
Alan Ladd liked having friends around and the cast here is filled with players who were close personal friends and/or co-workers from his Paramount days. They include, Anthony Caruso, George J. Lewis, Peter Hansen, Perry Lopez, William Demarest. Look for young Rod Taylor as a contract killer and Jayne Mansfield in her screen debut as a bimbo.
Joanne Dru plays the estranged Mrs. Ladd and was probably grateful to be in a modern setting. Paul Stewart gives a memorable performance as Robinson's chief henchman along with his lady love Fay Wray who played a former movie star who was keeping company with Stewart. Their relationship with Robinson is the key to the story.
Cinemascope and noir usually don't mix, but in this case with the final scene being a police chase and fight with speedboats across San Francisco bay, cinemascope helped greatly.
Fans of both Alan Ladd and Edward G. Robinson will enjoy this film.
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