When he learns that a gangster has taken over his nightclub and murdered his partner, returning WW2 hero Joe Miracle steals the money from the club's safe and hides in a settlement home, while the mob is on his tail.
After two gang-related killings in "Center City," a suspect (who was framed) is arrested, released on bail...and murdered. Inspector Briggs of the FBI recruits a young agent, Gene Cordell, to go undercover in the shadowy Skid Row area (alias George Manly) as a potential victim of the same racket. Soon, Gene meets Alec Stiles, neurotic mastermind who's "building an organization along scientific lines." Stiles recruits Cordell, whose job becomes a lot more dangerous...Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Few-frills agent-in-peril noir benefits from Widmark, Stevens
J. Edgar Hoover, it now seems, was a mediocre crimefighter but a master orchestrator of his own publicity (and only secondarily that of the FBI). The Street With No Name stands as one of the better films dedicated to kissing his assiduously cultivated legend. Most directors assigned these tasks in the noir cycle wrote off such idolatry as a cost of doing business, clearing it away quickly so as to get on with their moviemaking; William Keighley follows this sensible agenda.
FBI agent Mark Stevens goes undercover to infiltrate the mob in that cesspool of crime, Center City, USA. In the boxing ring, he attracts the attention, slightly open to inference, of boss Richard Widmark, a dapper ("I like my boys to look sharp") cutthroat with a morbid fear of drafts and sneezes. With the aid of confederate John McIntyre, Stevens reports the gang's plans back to the FBI. Alas, a high-placed informant in the police department reports the FBI's plans back to Widmark.
So the movie boils down to the agent-in-peril story. Keighley tells it cleanly and briskly, eschewing the complexities (both visual and moral) of Anthony Mann's T-Men, released just a few months earlier. It's strongest in the feel for Center City's raffish tenderloin, with its fleabag hotels, pool halls and walk-up gyms. Stevens, McIntyre and Lloyd Nolan (as Stevens' superior) give workmanlike jobs with the rather staid roles scriptwriter Harry Kleiner supplies. His few-frills approach reins in Widmark, too, who's always better when he's unfettered and shooting over the top.
The Street With No Name suffers a bit from staying so resolutely all-guy; thus Barbara Lawrence suffers, too, in an underwritten and inconsequential part as Widmark's abused moll. A little more cool yin might have balanced out all that hot, hard yang.
NOTE: In 1955, Samuel Fuller remade -- and rethought -- this movie, using the same screenwriter and cinematographer (Joe MacDonald, now working in color) as House of Bamboo, set in postwar Tokyo.
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