Bogey is superb as defense attorney with too soft a heart under his tough guy exterior, and Derek is chillingly believable as the cool, young delinquent who thinks nothing of playing his friends for marks. Macready, as the relentless D.A, pulls no punches, and allows for no softness in an indelible performance.
A pioneering movie blazes a trail later imitated but never bested.
Some have justly criticized this film for moralizing too much. However I still enjoyed it for the acting (Bogart of course and John Derek as well) and for the intelligent exploration of how much responsibility rests on the individual and how much on society. A note of interest is that Dewey Martin (Nicky's friend Butch) would later play Bogart's brother in The Desperate Hours. I also appreciated character actor Vince Barnett's (The Killers) portrayal as the less than reliable bartender. All in all, a flawed but nevertheless worthwhile film, 7/10.
***SPOILERS*** Nicholas Ray's first film that's very much like his 1955 classic "Rebel Without a Cause" which deals with a troubled youth where in "Rebel" it's star James Dean, as James Stark, was a troubled and misunderstood teenager. In the movie "Knock on any Door" the young man Nick"Pretty Boy" Romono", John Derek, is a hardened and career criminal. Arrested after a cop was shot and killed outside the 3.80 Club Nick is grabbed by the police together with a score of other persons and charged with the policemen's murder.
Attorney Andrew Morton ,Humphrey Bogart, who handles only property and probate cases goes against his law partners wishes to take up Nick's defense pro bono. Andrew feels that he owes him at least that since he holds himself responsible for the violent life that Nick had chosen years earlier. Six years ago Andrew turned the case of Nick's dad over to his law partner Ed Elkins, Curt Conway. He felt at the time that it was an open and shut case for old man Romono being found innocent. Elkins however blotched it up and caused the old man to be sentenced to a year in prison and died after four months behind bars. With Nick suddenly becoming the family bread-winner he drifted into a life of crime and worked himself up, over those six years, from petty theft to what he's now being accused of, the murder of a law enforcement officer.
Ahead of it's time, even though very dated now, "Knock on any Door" gets into the background of it's accused killer like a scalpel used by a neurosurgeon goes into the brain of his patient. The entire movie goes from Nick's trial to his past, through a series of flashbacks and shows how he got to where is is now; on trial for his life.
Handsome John Derek's first film and he does the best with the part that he has giving a three dimensional, unlike the usual cartoon-like, performance of the ruthless criminal Nick "Pretty Boy" Romono who has a heart of gold under all that barb wire that he covers himself up with. Humphrey Bogart gives his usual high quality performance as the lawyer Abdrew Morton who goes out of his way to try to save the "abused and troubled" young man from a one-way trip to the electric chair.
Very emotional and powerful ending sequence where Andrew gives his closing argument not just about his client's Nick Romono tormented and troubled past,as he pleads for the jury to spare his life, but also for the future. Andrews final summery is in preventing more Nick Romono's from evolving out of the depressed and hopeless crime infested neighborhoods that they come from and grow up in.
It's third feature of Nicholas Ray (1911-1979). The screenplay, by John Monks Jr. and Daniel Taradash, is adapting the novel "Knock on Any Door" (1947), Willard Motley. Is shot in real settings Lake Arrowhead (CA) and the Sunset Gower studios Columbia Studios (Hollywood, LA, CA) Produced by Robert Lord for Santana Productions for Columbia Pictures, The dramatic action takes place in Chicago (IL) in recent years 1948-1949. The hero is the attorney Andrew "Andy" Morton (Bogart), who had a difficult childhood, but later got out and is now happily married a promising lawyer. Co-star is young Nick Romano (Derek), eldest son of a large family of Italian immigrants, lives in a slum in the city, where poverty abounds, unemployment, and crime. The film explores, among other things, the world of adolescents and young people particularly in relation to the problem of juvenile delinquency, its causes and its relationship with the environment.
Movie fundamental genre noir cinema with a good interpretation of Humphrey and somewhat looser interpretation of John Derek, where they try to analyze the causes of crime through a reflection of social exclusion and explicit criticism of the institutions (police, prisons, reformatories...).
This film could be a prelude of what would later become (Rebel without a Cause 1955), problematic neighbourhood kid and wanted by the law. Good movie, recommended especially for the actions of Bogart, a character who used to play.
"Knock on Any Door " is a tense film, with a large dose of social criticism to a world where we see and do not act, where we are all guilty of any offense, even where the law is able to use any trick to get your goal.
Humphrey Bogart has created an impressive resume in movies. Thus when trying to choose which film personifies his best, it's difficult to say. Some would offer it's the 'Petrified Forest', others would argue and suggest 'The African Queen', or 'The Maltese Falcon'. They are all Classics, still this movie " Knock on any Door " is the one I would select. The story is taken from the novel by Willard Motley and able directed by Nicholas Ray. Seen in Black and White it relates the story of Nick Romano, superbly played by handsome John Derek (the stone-cutter from The Ten Commandments). Growing up wild and undisciplined in the wet streets of a big city, he is arrested for a Capital crime and stands a good chance of imprisonment or death. However, the only obstacle to that bleak future is able defense attorney Andrew Morton, attorney at law. The courtroom drama is inter-fused with the life of the young Romano and Bogart is at his best with a incredible narrative which encompasses the film. The drama is excellent as is the acting, leaving little doubt the end result is one of Bogart's best. Easilly offered or recommended to any fan of Bogart or Derek as a Classic picture. ****
I think this is a fine movie, with a tremendous performance by Humphrey Bogart.
A lawyer -- Bogart -- defends Nick Romano (John Derek), a good boy that turned into a juvenile delinquent when his childhood went bad when his father died...in part due to his lawyer's negligence (Bogart). The older Nick got, the more of a thug he became, although for a while, after he married a sweet girl, it seemed as if things were turning around for him. Eventually, Nick goes on trial for viciously killing a policeman. Bogart's legal strategy is to argue that the slums bred Nick into a criminal. Bogart has a field day in the courtroom scenes...one his strongest performances...in a film produced by his own production company.
Reviewer Bosley Crowther called the film "a pretentious social melodrama". Well, it is a social melodrama...a rather liberal one, though I'm not sure why Crowther called it "pretentious".
While Bogart's performance is dominant, John Derek's debut is very strong. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Derek ever lived up to this early promise. As he was nicknamed in this film, he was a pretty boy, and as Bogart reportedly told him, that would not be enough.
"Knock on Any Door" (Columbia 1949), a combination courtroom drama and delinquent youth social statement, was Nicholas Ray's directorial debut. Humphrey Bogart plays lawyer Andrew Morton, one time street tough turned idealistic lawyer. Bogart's independent production company made the film shortly after he broke away from Warner Brothers. Bogart's part was originally intended for Marlon Brando, but Brando withdrew after the death of producer Mark Hellinger.
On the verge of becoming a partner in his big-time law firm, Morton is yanked out of his ivory tower and into the past by the need to defend accused murderer Pretty Boy Romano (John Derek), who he attempted to help when Romano was a petty teenage criminal. This is told in flashbacks with Romano repeating his credo: "live fast, die young, and have a good looking corpse". Probably the first film use of what has become a very tired expression. Morton carries a lot of guilty baggage into the trial. He blames himself for the imprisonment of Romano's father, an event that plunged the family into poverty and led to Romano's life of crime. Through the years he had tried to help Romano who had married a nice girl and attempted to go straight. But setbacks at work returned Romano to crime. Then his pregnant wife's suicide unhinged him and he killed a cop.
The "Knock on Any Door" expression refers to Morton's plea for leniency during the trial, as he blames the conditions in the slums and the affects of poverty for Romano's actions. Stating that behind any door are young men whose lives will be wasted unless they receive guidance and are assisted in becoming productive citizens.
"Knock on Any Door" provides a nice example of the unpredictability inherit in the film making business. A look at screenplay and cast would lead you to expect the film's strengths to be the Bogart-Derek scenes and the courtroom drama, with the romantic background story (told in flashbacks) a glaring weakness.
But the trial scenes which take up a substantial part of the film suffer from the usual procedural inaccuracies and are not particularly effective dramatically. Bogart pretty much plays his Captain Queeg character ("The Caine Mutiny") and spends more time whining than defending. The Bogart-Derek scenes are nothing special and there is no chemistry between the two actors. The narrative actually contradicts the theme of outrage over social inequities. The simplistic conclusions about social justice ring hollow and any sympathetic feelings toward Romano seem misplaced.
The production design is great. When combined with the haunting the black & white photography it makes for one of the best looking examples of the film noir genre.
What ultimately saves the film and actually makes it rather special is the romance between Romano and Emma (Allene Roberts). This unlikely character pairing (imagine James Dean's "Rebel" having a serious relationship with Melanie from "Gone With the Wind") somehow works as Roberts and Derek have a real chemistry together. And she introduces intangibles that are missing from the rest of the production. In addition, the relationship itself introduces a nice irony as it is the pressure to make Emma proud of him and to tangibly demonstrate his love that ultimately leads Romano back to crime.
Humphey Bogart in his first movie for his own production company Santana. And introducing "pretty boy" John Derek. Bogart plays a sympathetic lawyer defending a juvenile delinquent(Derek)on trial for murder. Pretty average Film-Noir, but good enough to hold your interest. Courtroom scenes provide high drama and then comes the twist ending that really is not so surprising. Also in the cast are:George Macready, Allene Roberts and Mickey Knox. And then there is Dooley Wilson tickling the ivories.
Knock on Any Door was Humphrey Bogart's first film after leaving Warner Brothers. He and his Santana productions did a few for Columbia at that time.
It's a throwback film to the Thirties, a time it was seen that all cures to society's ills was a better social program. That's the message that attorney Bogart was driving home to the jury, that for a few better breaks his client John Derek would be a solid citizen.
Actually during the course of the film, what we see of John Derek's life showed he had some opportunities and blew them. It also did show that the family had some rotten luck. A mixed message to say the least.
The film shows Bogart as an attorney and his involvement over the years with young John Derek who was making his screen debut. Derek has been arrested for killing a policeman after a bar stickup and he turns to Bogart for help. The first part of the film is Bogart's opening remarks to the jury at the murder trial and we see in flashback, Derek's life and how it intertwined with Bogart's.
The second half was the trial itself and the aftermath. George MacReady as the District Attorney probably gave the best performance in the movie. Another reviewer described MacReady as evil. Granted he usually is in his roles, but here he's just one very effective prosecutor.
Yet Knock On Any Door, confused as it is, does still raise some relevant questions. The scenes in the reform school are still being shown today and had their not been Code restrictions might have been more graphic. I only have to cite the movie Sleepers from a few years back.
Bogart fans will like it and John Derek certainly merited the nickname "pretty boy."
A disappointing effort at the (apparently) age-old trope that crime and criminals are caused by society rather than the failings of men. These were done before this, and (many) were done after. In spite of the billing, John Derek is really the star of this picture, and he can't quite pull it off. Humphrey Bogart, as always, is excellent when he is on-screen, but this is not enough to carry the picture. Allene Roberts was beautiful, and played her role well, but it was doggedly one-dimensional. Back to the liberal theme here, the idea that bad neighborhoods, bad luck, bad times, and bad associates cause the loss of good young young people into eternal thug-hood is belied by all those (including Bogart's character) who rise above these things, and become decent and moral citizens. I found the whole effort ham-handed and preachy.
This is indeed an odd flick and I assume Bogart agreed to star in it because it more closely represented his real-life political and social beliefs. Because of this, it appears to be a sincere effort--unfortunately, it just doesn't grab the viewers. I assume that MANY who saw it in 1949 were VERY disappointed because instead of the tough guy Bogart, he is a lawyer who decries the evils of slums and how it produces career criminals. This social crusader Bogart must have REALLY gone over well with those who wanted the tough guy! My problem is that blaming society is too easy an answer and that really turned me off as I watched. Plus the rhetoric was just too ridiculous and over-the-top. Secondly, it just didn't convince me--if Derek's character or the events leading up to the crime were better written, I might have gone along with the premise. As it was, Derek WAS a punk and deserved to be severely punished. The film would have been MUCH better if the attempts to gain sympathy for the criminal had been deserved. Sure, he had a tough life, but ultimately, he executed a cop and was a menace. This connection and empathy just isn't there--as the writers did a lousy job of creating a flawed character worth saving--Derek was not worth the crusade. So overall, a slightly worse than average flick, though for Bogart a sincere effort but a miss nevertheless.
Great closing shot but little else. Good luck sticking with it that long. Going in I expected that this early Nicholas Ray effort would probe the themes of youth anguish and alienation present in his classic "REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE" and I suppose it does, but in such an episodic, dramatically stillborn way, it's hard to believe it's even from the same director. The movie keeps backpedaling, flashing back, robbing itself of any momentum. In his opening courtroom remarks, Bogart instructs the jury that the criminal past of the young man on trial for murdering a cop doesn't matter, it's completely irrelevant. Then he proceeds to spend the next hour recounting the youth's cliched life story in long-winded detail, playing up his hard knocks upbringing in gooey, unbelievable fashion. Congratulations to the jury members for staying awake; I sure couldn't.
The movie is really just a showcase for the good-looking, young up and comer John Derek, as the heartthrob hoodlum. The camera likes him and he's an ok actor (he would later go on to be more effective in some B level westerns and crime stories) but he lacks depth and often comes across as plastic, doll-like. He's certainly no James Dean. Bogart is really the only other actor here of any note, and he mostly goes through the motions, realizing he can only do so much with a routine script.
One of those socially conscious pictures that is just too polite and well intentioned for its own good. Very minor and forgettable. Quite a disappointment from the great Nicholas Ray who made such an impression with movies like "THEY LIVE BY NIGHT", "IN A LONELY PLACE", and "PARTY GIRL".
The message of this film is very important, and something we can think about today.
I will not ruin this plot for those who have not had the time to see it, but I recommend this as one of those 'hard to find' movies from Bogart's large collection.
For a thriller, this is the perfect ingredients. You have a good leading man, and a story centered around crime. The ending is one in a million. I disagree with the first review on this page, in no way does this film try to "glorify a hoodlum" the message is something we need to think about today when we see all these gang bangers on the news murdering people. There's a way we can do without all of that. This movie, should be a warning why you should not do those kind of things.
Nick Ray's 3rd film (I believe); his first with Bogey. Bogart is a lawyer and although his part is written a bit hokey, he convinces in the part. Mostly told in a conventional flashback like "A Woman's Secret". Good acting, decent photography. George Macready is excellent as well as the scarred, evil, but ultimately vindicated prosecutor. Though it has some melodrama of the forced variety, it manages to convey a sense of the rough edges around the conventional truth. No real heroes here.
Themes of later Nicholas Ray movies can be seen. Of course, there is "Rebel Without A Cause." There's also a little of his most beautiful movie, "They Live By Night." But it's static and preachy. Humphrey Bogart's preaching works in "The Harder They Fall." Here, it is implausible in its courtroom context. And it's tedious.
John Derek is very attractive. It's easy to see how, in real life, he want on to marry three of the most beautiful women of the second half of the Twentieth Century. But he isn't very good. He seems to me sort of stiff. I don't buy him as a street hood, either.
The supporting cast, with the exception of the always fascinating George Macready, is pretty bland. When Derek meets the girl he falls in love with, she looks absolutely beautiful, in a very realistic way. But what worked for the Italian neo-realists doesn't work for Ray: We need some stronger supporting performances.
It's far from a bad movie. But, given what it could have been, it isn't very good, either. It's didactic, predicable, and too long. And that is a lethal combination.
Humphrey Bogart stars in this rather uneven courtroom, flashback-dominated drama as a good-hearted defense attorney standing up for a young man (John Derek) accused of shooting a police officer dead while making an escape attempt. As Bogart fights against a persistent prosecuting attorney placed by George Macready, he tells the jury the story of his client's past. How this man accused of murder and facing the death penalty became the man he is, the sort of things he'd gone through, and all the while, trying to prove his innocence. Basically, Bogart spends most of the time trying to create sympathy for his client. Sympathy that the jury and the audience frankly cannot come to terms with.
"Knock on Any Door" is basically a standard courtroom drama picture with an iconic leading man narrating the whole story. It's fairly short, but sort of drawn out at the same time because this whole story of a demented young individual poisoned by the ravages of civilization has been told many times before and in better situations. Filmmakers like Otto Preminger and Sidney Lumet would later go on to prove that when it comes to courtroom dramas, it's better to relate to the killings through word of mouth rather than showing it either as a prologue or a flashback, for it just seems to get in the way and there is far more drama that can be generated by the actors relating to this event none of them have seen.
"Knock on Any Door" is a spotty and very uneven courtroom drama with very little to surprise and even less to move the audience. Even the famous and well-acted final sentencing speech done by Bogart does not strike with the impact that one should expect it to. But do not be confused. I am not bashing "Knock on Any Door". I am just simply saying that it's an underplayed, but nevertheless worthy way of spending exactly one hundred minutes of your time. Humphrey Bogart is great as usual, but the problem is that his character is a frankly uninteresting and two-dimensional defense lawyer. Bogart gives the character some charisma, but the writing just generates a recyclable hero. But do not be misled. I am not panning "Knock on Any Door." It works fine for what it is. But if you want to see Humphrey Bogart in a truly charismatic, well-written role, then rent "Casablanca." And if you want a truly well-realized courtroom drama, then set your sights on "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959) and/or "12 Angry Men" (1957).
Humphrey Bogart gets top billing here but in reality the film is a showcase for John Derek who plays a thug who suffered from a rough upbringing. He eventually gets charged with the murder of a cop but he claims to be innocent and his lawyer (Bogart) believes him. Director Nicholas Ray does a good job with his duties but he's letdown by a pretty standard screenplay, which puts the main focus of the film on Derek's life story, which doesn't contain anything we haven't already seen in countless other movies. The film picks up towards the end when the trial start because Bogart takes center stage and delivers a very good performance. Derek is decent in his role but never strong enough to carry the film, which is what the screenplays asks of him. The only part of the flashback scenes that really work are the ones with Derek and his wife played by Allene Roberts. Roberts nearly steals the film and certainly out acts Derek in every scene. There's some nice dialogue including a great final speech by Bogart but there's just not enough originality here to make it work all the way through.
I was mostly disappointed in Humphrey Bogart's performance as lawyer Andrew Morton who was too busy to defend and take care of a storekeepers assault charge while his little store was in the process of being robbed. The result being another lawyer from his firm who was unprepared to fight the case sent this poor innocent immigrant Italian storekeeper to the hoosegow where he unexpectedly dies of a heart attack and leaves his family without a father.
The now fatherless son named Nick Romano played by John Derek is lost without his father's financial and parental support and guidance and ends up running with the wrong crowd in a desperate means to make some quick money by robbing storefronts and mugging innocent working stiffs.
As the boy Nick Romano grows into a young man and learns his thieving trade in the school of hard "knocks" he runs into lawyer Andrew Morton who is burdened with a guilty conscience for the avoidable death of Nick's father while wrongfully in prison. So lawyer Andrew Morton attempts to keep an eye on the troubled youth Nick Romano but to no avail as Nick is eventually charged with the murder of an on duty police officer in Nicks neighborhood.
The story of how Nick Romano found himself on trial for the murder of a police officer is told rather boorishly through Andrew Morton's interpretation to twelve (12) jurors. Typically in movie scenes that involve a prosecuting and defense attorney(s) there is a heated exchange while the accused is on the stand. In this case though the endless barrage of questions that the prosecutor district attorney Kerman played by George Macready throws at the befuddled accused Nick Romano is so choreographed that I thought I was witnessing a high school debate and not a murder trial.
It was difficult to continue watching what seemed to be an ill prepared cast to handle a court room drama such that my mind kept wandering off as the film was unable to hold this viewers attention. Even Humphrey Bogart could not save this poorly delivered cookie cutter court room drama picture so the film title in my view would suggest that the vendors should please pass by my door as this dog bites with his honest review.
p.s. Bogie's best picture in my view was (1951) The African Queen with co-star Katharine Hepburn and this is a must see if you want to see Bogart at his very best. Please read my full review on The African Queen dated August 04th, 2016
Humphrey Bogart's first film away from the controlled environment of Warner Brothers shows its technical flaws, particularly in the script which consists of scene after scene of relentless polemical exposition detailing the supposed evidence for why society has just as much a blame as the criminals living in the slums produced by them.
This is not a new message from the movies and after World War II, the intent to clean up the streets of America became much more of a signature statement for the left-leaning political crowd as a way to counter the focus on international affairs. Bogart and director Nicholas Ray were certainly huge figures in that movement but Bogie's first time as producer and Ray's second feature film leave much to be desired. Most of the performances are either too stiff or too exaggerated. Only Bogie manages to maintain a collected and understated performance despite his unnecessary preaching at the end. Perhaps no other actor in history portrays hard-edged cynicism better than Bogart, which makes it all the more surprising that his character remains this way for much of the film only to jump on society in the final scene.
Ray's direction is nothing too special as he was still feeling his way around a movie set. He does, however, exhibit some interesting and striking visual tricks, foreshadowing future films to come.
Average Nicholas Ray feature film that has a couple of good scenes. Humphrey Bogart is adequte is what is one of his boring performances of his career. The film debut for the future husband of Bo Derek, John Derek. The ending feels forced and manuplated.
Knock on any Door(1949) looks at issues on youth that were better developed in Luis Bunuel's The Young and the Damned(1950), and Nichloas Ray's superior Rebel Without a Cause(1954). The line "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a good looking corpse" represents the emotions felt by teens during the early Post WW2 era. Line is telling of the cynicism and worthlessness felt by young people of that time. I wonder if this movie was an influence on Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue(1980) because Raymond Burr would play a similar character as Humphrey Bogart.
The back of the video promised a "courtroom drama". What I got was a heavy-handed commentary about how society wrongfully treats it's cast-offs.
It's easy not to feel sympathy for the character of Nick Romano, a person who is given more than enough opportunity to escape his past through the help of Andrew Morton and Adele, but he willfully refuses it.
Bogart is great, but even his performance can't help this movie.
I disagree with other commenters. Though not the best movie, the movie had a point similar to that of "To Kill A Mockingbird." An attorney took on a case and a client he really didn't want. If he loses, his client could die. The stakes are high. In "Knock On Any Door," the attorney had abandoned the father, believing that it was no big deal. His associate didn't take the consequences seriously either. In the long run, not only did the family's father and breadwinner die in prison for a crime he didn't do, but the son felt abandoned and became a hood, eventually dying in the electric chair. If the lawyer had treated this innocent and poor family just as he treated his rich clients, and had given them his best as he did his rich clients, the father and the son may have been saved. The moral is, all people have value, whether poor or old, and when one is entrusted with the care or safety of another, one should treat that life as if it were his own in all cases. Not the best movie, but, when looked at from more than an entertainment perspective, it does its job well.
Believe it or not, situation as happened in this movie happen in real life all the time.
I wasn't expecting THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. I wasn't even expecting REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. But considering (or perhaps not even considering) the fact that the subject matter (juvenile delinquents, rebels, anti-conformity) was close to Nicholas Ray's heart, this is an unfortunately stale effort by one of the best and most important American film directors of the 20th century.
Pretty Boy (a.k.a. Nick Romano, played by the perpetually puppy-dog eyed John Derek) grows up hardened and tough in a bad neighborhood on the Columbia Studios backlot. After years of jail terms and a stretch in a reform school, he returns home and falls for Pretty Girl (a.k.a. Emma, played to almost intoxicating sweetness by Allene Roberts). When he can't quit the life of crime, his pregnant wife commits suicide and Romano is put on trial for killing (or perhaps not killing) a cop. Most of his hardship is overseen by attorney Andrew Morton (Humphrey Bogart, the only lead actor who gives his role at least some intrigue and is therefore the only one who doesn't get the nickname treatment from yours truly), also from the wrong side of the tracks. He doesn't always quite believe that Romano is telling the truth and doesn't approve of his self-pitying ways (neither do I), but nonetheless he takes Romano's case and the battle is fought in the courtroom.
I believe that films should stand on their own two feet and not be compared to previous works, but since Nicholas Ray was so clearly trying to recapture the magic of his astonishing debut THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, it's hard not to compare the two; after all the love story between Pretty Boy and Pretty Girl directly parallels Bowie and Keechie's relationship. Both stories involve two young adults from the wrong side of the tracks, a criminal hardened by his tough life and the angelic girl who he marries and briefly finds inner peace with. I never thought that anyone could give a bad performance under Ray's direction, but while Farley Granger was no Montgomery Clift, John Derek is a dime-store version of Granger; at least Granger was able to give a sensitive and genuinely compelling performance under Ray's fatherly direction. Derek goes through the motions but not the emotions that Granger did so effortlessly. And even the ethereal Cathy O'Donnell was smart enough to allude to the toughness earned from years of living in the wrong place; Allenne Roberts captures none of that, only the unbelievable angelic nature. These characters don't echo the complexity of Ray's debut; they are whiny caricatures of people we're supposed to feel sorry for.
It's admirable that Humphrey Bogart would want to make a film about social injustice for his first project as a producer (this film was financed by his independent production company Santana), and he even lets most of the light shine on Pretty Boy. However, given Derek's poor performance and Bogart's coy cynicism, his golden integrity just hidden beneath the surface, and his brooding on-screen presence (as preachy as his closing argument is, it is well acted by Bogart), I wished the movie had been more about him, I wished the script not been as black-and-white as Burnett Guffey's cinematography. In trying to cry out for justice, the film just annoyed me with its condescending attitude and simplified message my six-year-old cousin could've caught.
I recommend two Nicholas Ray films that are a much more stimulating and thought- provoking experience: the first is THEY LIVE BY NIGHT for reasons already stated. The second is his masterful IN A LONELY PLACE, his second film with Humphrey Bogart--and in this one he *is* in the center stage, featuring probably the most complex and darkest role of his career. I guess one good thing came out of KNOCK ON ANY DOOR: Bogart and Ray, who came from different ways of approaching their jobs, needed one film to get to know each other, how the other one worked. Ray once said that during this film he "took the gun away from Bogart's hands," and by the time they re-teamed for the second and last time, their professional relationship had ripened to friendship. Bogart trusted Ray enough to give a nakedly vulnerable performance in a film which you *SHOULD* look into.
This remains a lukewarm tale of a young man's descent into crime, from petty theft to cop-killer. Doesn't seem to pack the punch of its sequel, "Let No Man Write My Epitaph"(1960) perhaps because some of the 'code restrictions' had been lifted by the 60s. Bogart's character never seems to fully develop, and one is left to wonder, had director Ray given license to Derek, as he did James Dean, in "Rebel Without a Cause"(1955), if we might have something different here. What we end up with is a fairly good picture bogged down with social commentary, not at all like the sprawling novel by Willard Motley.