City in Fear (1980)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama  |  30 March 1980 (USA)
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A psycho-on-the-loose story, about a burned-out newspaper columnist and his circulation-hungry publisher who wants him to turn the killer into Page One news.


(as Alan Smithee)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vince Perrino
Harrison Crawford III
Lt. John Armstrong
Tony Pate
Harrison Crawford II
Madeleine Crawford
Freeman Stribling
Raymond Zavala
George Weller
Sheldon Lewis
Mark Lonow ...
Henry Zeller
Lane Binkley ...
Doris Greasza
Kenny Reiger
Captain Madison


A psycho-on-the-loose story, about a burned-out newspaper columnist and his circulation-hungry publisher who wants him to turn the killer into Page One news. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

30 March 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Panic on Page One  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (video)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


David Janssen's final film appearance. See more »


A wild shootout in a discotheque caps this thriller, when police lieutenant Jack Armstrong and his partner (Pepe Serna) inadvertently walk in on killer Tony Pate (Mickey Rourke) holed up with an assault rifle planning a massacre later that night (as the real Son of Sam had planned to do). Armstrong carries what appears to be a standard .38 six-shot revolver. But on the soundtrack you can hear eight shots during the first battle in a second-floor bar. Armstrong then reloads (his partner doesn't), runs up the stairs to the top floor and continues shooting it out until blasting Pate on the dance floor. Again you can count eight shots from Armstrong's gun. See more »

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User Reviews

Robert Vaughn ropes reporter David Janssen into sensationalizing Mickey Rourke's serial killings
10 July 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There are nothing but very worthy performances in this TV-movie, and they make it watchable and enjoyable. "City in Fear" is a drama, combined with thriller and detective elements. The thriller-detective part concerns a serial killer, played by Mickey Rourke in a very early role. He is killing young blonde women, whom he sees as signs of American softness and decadence; underneath, he has murderous compulsions stoked by sexual problems. Two detectives are on the case. They're conscientious, but the city's police department is bureaucratic, has bureaucratic divided operations, and is subjected to politics. Before they can break the case, there are 6 murders. This makes the movie repetitive after awhile, as the depictions are not particularly suspenseful. There are two holes in this part of the narrative. After a shooting victim identifies one sketch of Rourke, this clue is dropped; however, that sketch arose from an earlier police stop in which the car registration would have been known. After this sketch is published in the newspaper, it brings in no witnesses who identify Rourke.

The drama part of the story concerns the newspaper business, Vaughn's drive to revive the failing newspaper, and Janssen's attempt to revive his career. Even though the actors do what they can to bring this to life and often succeed, this story tends to be overlong, labored and lacking in dramatic conflict. The movie tends to get flabby. Vaughn is at the center of conflicts with his staff, with Janssen, with his wife and with his father. His case for sensationalizing the case is presented with a good deal of balance. No easy answers are proffered that answer the question of how a newspaper can survive in the TV age and how it can uphold journalistic ethics. Vaughn has taken over the newspaper and retained the existing staff, which is hidebound, deskbound and unimaginative. He has to goad them and Janssen. But Vaughn is also shown as over-doing his use of the serial killings to build circulation and sending the readers into a state of fear and near-panic.

Vaughn's character is really the center of the movie. Janssen's character is much weaker, close to dissolute, and ambivalent. He is the disillusioned reporter turned artist (writer), who really has no talent for books but still has the reporter's skills. But despite his ideals, he wants the money.

Rourke's character is a kind of anomaly. He cannot read. He stocks the shelves at a supermarket. He's uneducated. He's good looking and has a boyish charm, but he cannot let women get close to him sexually, even though there is one woman that he's friendly with.

The script plays as if the writer intended to make a statement about newspapers and journalism. It gets a little didactic at times, which is not fitting to most motion pictures.

Overall, the picture is uneven and overlong, but it has good acting in it. It needed editing and sharper conflicts shown dramatically rather than verbally.

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