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.
A police detective investigating a jewel robbery discovers evidence that points to his girlfriend as the culprit, although she claims she was framed. He arrests her anyway, and she is ... See full summary »
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
About 15 minutes into the picture, when people are going up and down the stairs to the elevated train platform, a shadow of the camera and crew member falls across them. See more »
[Opening lines of first person narration as the camera dollies back from an ugly expressionistic painting]
That was what I was. I work the rackets... dirty rackets... ugly rackets. I was no hypocrite. I knew everything I did was low and rotten. I knew what people thought of me. What difference did it make? What did I care?
[Lying in bed looking at his face in a mirror]
I got scarred - sure! It can hurt a little when you fight your way out of a gutter.
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Smalltime gangster feels heat of competition, while romancing showgirl.
The most interesting thing about this crime drama are the visuals. Director Wiles goes all out with the stylized sets—the beachfront, the elevated train, the complex interiors, et al. I guess that's not surprising given his background as an art director. Apparently the King Brothers let him do pretty much what he wanted even on the small budget. The result is arty, but interesting. Then too, maybe you can take those stylized sets as mirroring Shubunka's inner state since he seems not too far from the nuthouse to begin with.
Sullivan certainly looks the gangster part. With his high cheekbones and gimlet eyes, he's scary even without the big scar. Plus, he's about as cold and animated as a block of ice. Sullivan's a fine actor so that is no accident, but the characterization seems too extreme to involve us in his fate. On the other hand, Loring's semi-pretty working girl comes across well, as does Belita's glamour girl with her odd facial resemblance to noir icon Gloria Grahame.
Like another reviewer, I'm a bit stumped by the seemingly unnecessary subplot with Morgan and D'Orsay. At first I thought the producers probably owed D'Orsay something so she got a tacked-on part. But then I noticed a parallel between Morgan's narcissistic Lothario and Sullivan's narcissistic gangster. Each appears imprisoned by his own limitations. Notice too that Morgan appears trapped by a jail-like fence following D'Orsay' rejection, a possible foreshadowing of Sullivan's downfall. Anyway, it's a thought.
But what I really like about the script is how Sullivan's indifference toward Ireland's desperate gambler brings about his own end— a nicely ironic touch. Also, note how the entrepreneurial criminal operations are tied in with corruption at higher levels of politics and big money. That seems unsurprising since both screenwriter Fuchs and the uncredited Trumbo were later blacklisted. In fact, noir appears the favorite genre of many leftist screenwriters, perhaps because of the potential for unhappy endings in a capitalist society.
Nonetheless, the movie as a whole comes across more as an object of contemplation than of audience immersion, but certainly continues to have its points of interest.
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