Shubunka (Barry Sulivan) is a cynical gangster who controls the Neptune Beach waterfront. He runs a numbers racket with the local soda shop owner. The police are in his pocket and the local hoods are on his payroll.
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Shubunka is the self-made head of the rackets in the sleazy boardwalk community of Neptune City, a low-rent version of Coney Island. He has become infatuated with a sultry nightclub chanteuse and lavishes her with gifts and attention, spending money on her that might better go to maintaining his hold on his operation. His obsession with her, as well as his pride, clouds his judgment as Cornell, a much more ruthless hoodlum, moves in on Shubunka's territory, bribes and threatens his associates, and compromises his operation. As if in a Greek tragedy, the petty gangster's weaknesses conspire to cause his downfall.Written by
After the 1946 success of their million dollar musical noir SUSPENSE Monogram and their A grade production name ALLIED ARTISTS repeated their Barry Sullivan and Belita pairing plus many excellent sets and camera angles in a truly strange crime drama THE GANGSTER. Typical of their urban style and effort to make socially arresting films (BLACK GOLD, HIGH TIDE, and later PHENIX CITY STORY)I find I am quite haunted by this grim and emotional portrayal of a doomed big shot draining mentally and emotionally in his seaside square mile of crummy crim competition. It is almost as if everyone in this film acts as though he is sure they are trying to cause him to have a mental breakdown. Sullivan is a career criminal on the very edge of insanity brought on by just a plain lousy life of struggle, arguing and ratty behavior. His affair with the incredibly gorgeous Belita (of skating fame) is racked with his paranoia and melancholy at best. It is as if his falling in love with her is causing his mind to unravel and local thugs know it. THE GANGSTER is a very well made film and genuinely emotionally interesting. It is NOT as the title suggests, a 'gangster film' however it is quite a sad and tortured tale depicting the tragic shattering in slow motion of a big man's heart and mind as he realizes (or just thinks that) his world is crumbling. The scenes at the beach promenade with Belita dressed all in white offer the viewer genuine beauty. She is sublimely dressed and photographed all through this handsome film. In fact she reminded me of a young Gertrude Lawrence: Belita was British and a champion skater at a young age throughout the UK before coming to Monogram when only about 19 years old. She just died, in 2006 at about 82 years old. Barry Sullivan is a revelation. THE GANGSTER is one of the most interesting psychological dramas made, given that it is set within his mind, hence the fake looking world he inhabits (stylised sets etc). He has fallen in love and knows he doesn't deserve it or control it, thus causing emotional fright and mental collapse. What a topic! Good movie, this!
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