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"You're a reckless man, Rawlins. And I don't like reckless men."
abooboo-216 August 2001
I had really only been familiar with John Payne from his role in the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street" and perhaps a forgettable musical or two. Naturally I was amazed at how effective he is in this dazzling, violent noir as a basically decent but brooding and extremely volatile former prize fighter reduced to driving a cab to support his beautiful, cheating wife. His acting is unflinching, unsentimental and completely authentic. He creates nearly as vivid and memorable a hard luck character as Marlon Brando did in "On The Waterfront".

The big city of this film (as presented by the marvelous and criminally under-appreciated director Phil Karlson) is a simultaneous vision of heaven and hell. Frank Faylen, Evelyn Keyes and Eddy Waller are angels, willing to do anything to protect vulnerable Payne (even mislead the police), their faith in his inherent goodness unshakeable despite his tirades and self-destructive tendencies. Brad Dexter, Peggie Castle, Jay Adler and Jack Lambert are devils; selfish, ruthless and evil to the core (although there are shadings to Castle's portrayal of the cheating wife which suggest she does feel some remorse). At one point Payne gets caught in the web of the villainous Adler, who has bigger fish to fry, and explains that he needs to be let go so he can find the man who framed him for murder. "Well, isn't that unfortunate?" Adler coldly responds before having one of his henchman conk Payne on the back of the head.

You'll have a hard time finding a better supporting cast than the one here. One of those rare movies where everyone nails their parts and comes through with a fresh, inspired take. A sly, sturdy, thrilling, consistently surprising picture.
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John Payne/Phil Karlson combo makes for potent punch
bmacv21 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
The underrated John Payne -- an ideal Everyman -- teamed with director Phil Karlson in a number of 50s thrillers. All bear viewing, but maybe the pick of the crop is 99 River Street. Payne plays a washed-up boxer now driving a hack, and the movie opens in a frame-within-a-frame of his watching himself in an old bout on TV. Trying to win back the affections of his couldn't-care-less wife (Peggie Castle), he discovers that she's two-timing him. Meanwhile an old gal-pal with theatrical yearnings (Evelyn Keyes, and maybe her finest hour) tries to enlist him in a scheme of her own, which backfires. Next, his wife turns up dead....Karlson keeps the tension high but well-modulated while managing to strike most of the images and motifs on the noir keyboard (including some evocative night footage of the Jersey waterfront). Overall, this installment in the cycle (which has never appeared on commercial videotape) remains one of the most satisfying and characteristic examples of noir in the early Eisenhower era -- slightly less spooky than its 40s predecessors, but a bit more brutal, too.
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A Must-See For Noir Fans
jimmccool27 June 2007
Think Kansas City Confidential - and you'll known where this hot potato is a-comin' from.

Terse, twisty, and more than a bit brutal, with performances from both main and secondary characters that are never short of excellent, 99 River Street is a real treat for hard-boiled Noir fans. This 'B' was an unknown quantity to me and gave me a real pleasant-as-cold-beer-on-a-hot-Sunday surprise. The plot turns and twists like a rattlesnake on ketamine, while the host of slimy villains oozing their way through the deitrus of the Dark City - when not force-feeding puppies! - reflect an ocean of corruption and moral decay. Even Payne is a very flawed hero, wrestling with wife-beating rage, and lashing out even at those who try to care for him. Stand-outs include Brad Dexter as a sleaze-ball crook, even more cunning than the homicidal private eye he played in Asphalt Jungle; and Jack Lambert, brilliantly playing the Dum-Dum psycho as always, as in The Killers, TheEnforcer.

99 River Street - 'B' Movie Hell, Pulp Noir Heaven!
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A bit different and worth watching.
Warning: Spoilers
Ernie Driscoll (John Payne) loses his heavyweight boxing crown and

has to endure the nagging tirades of his wife. She realizes that Ernie`s defeat and his deteriorating fighting abilities will mean no more big paychecks. She gets involved with Brad Dexter ( a

small time hood) hoping that Dexter`s big time ambitions will help to elevate her social and financial status. However when Dexter does hit it big, her demands and threats incur his ire and he kills her. Driscoll is blamed and now has to find out who did kill his wife. From here on in the action is fast and furious. Evelyn Keyes and

Frank Faylen are his allies (Keyes, a budding actress and Faylen a

buddy working with Driscoll as a cab driver) who ably assist in

the dangerous quest to find the killer. Earlier in the film Keyes had tricked Payne (Driscoll) into believing that she had killed a

man during an argument. Payne follows her to the scene of the "crime" which appears to have occurred on the stage of an empty theatre. She becomes hysterical as she looks at the body, Payne comforts her and tries to calm her. The murder is a hoax. Keyes is on trial to display her acting skills. The lights go on and

several people appear, all applauding the performance given by Keyes. Driscoll is furious and attacks them knocking the nearest man down. His anger is short lived and he befriends her realizing that his

violent attack had probably lost her the role for which she was

auditioning. A series of encounters with other hoods (also looking for Dexter and whatever he has) eventually leads to the location of Dexter. The final scene takes place on the deck of a ship where Dexter is planning to make his escape. A fight between him and Payne results in a confession and the subsequent exoneration of

Payne. One thing I find very realistic in movies starring John Payne, and that is that his fights all seem to underline his obvious skill at being able to throw punches that any boxer would be proud of. Watch his fistic display during a fight he has with Jack Lambert. This happens midway through the film when Payne corners Lambert in a sleazy hotel room and "persuades" him to reveal the whereabouts of Dexter. A film full of action and tension, see it I think you`ll agree.
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Payne Against the World
telegonus28 August 2002
As in the the previous year's Kansas City Confidential, John Payne is a most put-upon protagonist. Directed by KC Confidential's Phil Karlson, and photographed in gorgeous black and white, alternately harsh and painterly, by Franz Planer, this one has Payne as a washed up prizefighter who must avenge his worthless wife's murder, not because he cared particularly for her but because he is (falsely) implicated in it. Payne has to take on a good number of unsavory characters, and proves himself if nothing else still a most able man with his fists. There's a nice feeling for fifties urban night life in this one, of a less than high class style. Karlson shows an almost Fritz Langian feeling for the traps people fall into, personal and criminal, and like Lang doesn't go much for self-pity. In the Karlson scheme of things guys get framed for things they didn't do every day, affluent crooks wear expensive overcoats and take cruises fairly regularly, while working stiffs get the wrong end of the stick every time. It takes a tough man to survive in this universe. Payne is not only tough he's so resolute and bad tempered as to make the real bad guys look like the respectable businessmen they claim to be. It's Payne Against the World in this one. Or Pain Against the World, as the character Payne plays seems to suffer as much from internal anguish as anything the villains of the piece cook up for him.
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Terse example of rough & tumble 50s noir
Eddie-10213 July 1999
This might be Phil Karlson's tightest, most satisfying film.

John Payne and Evelyn Keyes play it in the best pulp tradition, with Keyes especially enjoyable in a couple of marvelous set-pieces, one in an empty theater and the other a greasy-spoon diner where she really vamps it up with Brad Dexter. Too bad Keyes dropped out of pictures in the mid-50s.
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Unpredictable, clever, engaging fast-paced noir.
CatTales17 March 2001
I've seen many film noirs and this one still had some wild, unexpected plot twists. Plot was clever but never too confusing(in spite of the wonderful twists), and employed believable film noir ambience (sexy betraying blonde, hard-up disillusioned hero, & good girl sidekick, heist, etc). Film doesn't emote too much sentiment with the characters, you sympathize alittle with the "hero" and a gangster. VERY FUN to watch. Definitely underrated, esp. compared with ANYTHING made after 1970. My only problem with it: did they really make closet doors with bolt locks in the 1950's?(our hero locks a bad guy in a closet).
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very good noir
blanche-216 January 2011
John Payne and Evelyn Keyes head for "99 River Street" in this film noir directed by Phil Karlson, and a very good one it is. Payne plays Ernie Driscoll, a washed up fighter who now drives a cab and has to take insults from his pretty, actress wannabe wife Pauline (Peggy Castle) who coulda been a contender if she hadn't married him. It turns out that she has a crooked boyfriend, Victor Rawlins (Brad Dexter) who is planning to get $50,000 from some diamonds and run away with her. When the fence refuses to deal with Rawlins because there's a woman with him, Rawlins kills Pauline and puts her body in Ernie's cab! Ernie's got to clear himself, and a friend at the cab company (Frank Faylen) and an aspiring actress friend (Evelyn Keyes) are there to help.

There are a very neat twists in this very atmospheric, gritty noir, which doesn't hold back on the violence. John Payne obviously loved this genre, or else he wanted to work against his clean-cut leading man image of the '40s. Here he looks like a fighter who's taken a lot of punches, and he does a great job as a basically good guy who's been dealt some bad cards and is angry about it. You're really pulling for him. Evelyn Keyes is wonderful as his friend, and her seduction act in a bar is one of the best scenes in the film. Frank Faylen, of course, is always likable - this is about six years before he became Dobie Gillis' father. Brad Dexter is excellent as a ruthless gangster.

Recommended, particularly if you like the genre.
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Extra! Extra! Hard-Nosed Crime Thriller K.O.'s the Competition!
rpvanderlinden15 January 2011
Wow! Here's a nifty little noir that doesn't pull its punches. Frank, nasty and brutal, it's the story of an ex-boxer with a bad temper who's still boiling over the defeat that ended his career four years earlier. Now he's driving cab and dreaming of better times ahead when he finds out his wife is fooling around on him. He does another dishy dame a favour only to be played for a sucker. And it's still early in the evening. By the middle of the night he's mixed up with murder and a nest of scumbags. I've had bad days - and nights - but nothing like this.

This movie has energy to spare, and conviction, and characters who get under your skin one way or another. The hero, Ernie (John Payne), is a seething cauldron, and that's okay because he's up for a good fight, not so okay for his wife (Peggie Castle) who wants out. You'd want him on your side, though - even if he's down for the count he'll always get up to fight another round. The dish (Evelyn Keyes) turns out to have what it takes, and her acting and seducing skills make for a dynamite scene near the end. For once the writers know what to do with a back story, with the boxing theme skillfully played throughout the movie and orchestrated into a white-knuckle climax and satisfying conclusion. As for Keyes and that scene - the movie could have been called "Cashmere Becomes Her" - it's hot, hot, hot! When she lights her cigarette from sleazoid Brad Dexter's smoldering fag tip, the tendrils of smoke caressing both their faces, I had to pinch myself to see if I was having a wet dream. Sex and violence are the key ingredients here - and cinematic exuberance. You couldn't ask for more. Just have your Nicorettes handy.
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An ex-boxer finds himself mixed up in robbery and murder.
PaulCurt14 September 1998
This is definitely a minor crime film, but it is one of the best examples of the genre I can recall. Within ten minutes of the start of the story, the viewer comes to care about the main character and his situation. The story proceeds logically and rapidly, and many of the incidental characters are well-defined and likeable. It's not going to end up on many top-ten lists, but this is as close to a perfect movie as you're likely to see.
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Very gripping, brutal film noir with John Payne as bad-tempered ex-boxer...
Doylenf14 January 2011
This is definitive film noir where the hero must prove he isn't guilty of a crime and has to deal with the thugs out to frame him and a woman who gets him into more trouble than he ever expected.

JOHN PAYNE excels as the scowling fighter who has a couple of really well-staged fight scenes with JACK LAMBERT and BRAD DEXTER, outside the ring and in the dark underworld of crime and passion.

The surprise of this low-budget thriller is EVELYN KEYES as an ambitious actress who gets Payne unknowingly involved in her attempt to land a Broadway role wherein she plays a nasty trick on him. Then, to make up for her rash behavior and poor judgment, she sticks by him when he needs a witness to prove he didn't murder his wife, played with relish by PEGGY CASTLE.

Under Phil Karlson's direction, it's all wildly unpredictable with enough sub-plots and twists to make it engrossing from start to finish. Payne was after meatier roles after leaving Fox in all of those pretty boy roles and musicals, establishing a new persona as a tough film noir hero, rugged and ready for the fight. He's excellent and so are the other players.

Keyes reveals raw acting talent of astonishing intensity, especially in the key scene where she plays a theatrical trick on him--and the viewer.

As usual, an actor who once played leading roles at Fox, GLENN LANGAN, is wasted in a minor role. FRANK FAYLEN gives his usual reliable performance as Payne's taxi driver friend.

Well worth watching if you're a film noir fan and don't mind a gritty tale that doesn't pull its punches.
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Clearly Karlson's best film
muddlyjames21 January 2002
  • Not the meandering KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL. This one has all his best elements: terse, supremely functional scenes, casual brutality, a visual style emphasizing the coarse, glaring surface of things, a view of the world as one big "con" (with actors (!) featured as moral shysters in this case), and a plot that barrels along like a freight train. It also features a surprisingly sympathetic lead character (great job of low-key acting from Payne)and believable interchanges between him and the good and bad women in the film. The ending is a marvel of staging, lighting, and camera movement. This film is the main basis of Karlson's genuine (if minor) film legacy.
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Underrated, Fast-Paced and Violent
claudio_carvalho16 September 2017
During the dispute of the box championship, the boxer Ernie Driscoll (John Payne) loses the fight and the champion damages his optic nerve. Ernie is forced to quit his career and becomes a taxi driver in New York. His wife Pauline Driscoll (Peggie Castle) blames him for their simple life and their relationship is not good. The quick-tempered Ernie usually meets his friend, the aspirant actress Linda James (Evelyn Keyes), at the bar where he drinks coffee late night. Pauline has a love affair with the elegant thief Victor Rawlins (Brad Dexter) and she helps him to steal a fortune in diamonds from a man called Dutch. Meanwhile Linda lures Ernie to be cast in a play but when she learns that the producer has accused Ernie to the police to promote his play, she regrets and decides to help him. Meanwhile Victor kills Pauline to sell the jewels to a powerful fence and frames Ernie so that he can travel abroad. Now Ernie and Linda need to track Victor down to prove his innocence, but the fence and his gang are also chasing Victor to kill him.

"99 River Street" is a different, underrated, fast-paced and violent film-noir. The story and the screenplay are engaging and the direction and performances are top-notch. The conclusion with a happy-ending is also unusual in this genre but works very well in this film. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "A Morte Ronda o Cais" (""Death Prowls the Habour")
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intensely simple, simply intense; must see
ccpivo-credit14 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Adding my simple and direct...Payne's personal individuality sweats off the screen in this top notch noir. This is must see for anyone who loves mystery, noir or film at all. Lack of top rung stars makes all the better and at least four performances couldn't be be improved. Cinematography simple but effective, although some dubious shots at end. Flaws include melodrama at start and finish but they don't affect the core 80 minutes.

Payne is brilliant even when dull or dumb. Evil wifey way sexy in the pantheon of evil chicks, but the 10 second cigarette lighting event at the end burns steals the limited sexy award in the film (still trying to research how many takes it took).

The violence is pretty real for that time and only two short periods of hokum in the film, probably to keep it palatable in theaters at the time. Shockingly unknown, some of the characters from KC Confidential keep the all pieces in place, but 99 River Street is more intense and less surreal than that standard. Enjoy.
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A great confluence of talent make this B movie an A movie knockout
secondtake15 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
99 River Street (1953)

While it starts off as a boxing movie, it soon segues into a kind of low budget crime film, filled with all kinds of impressive details and realistic nuances of the time. It's a pretty great story, too, almost something that could happen to you if you weren't paying attention. It's a film noir, certainly, with the lead male, the washed up boxer, played with regular-guy restraint by John Payne. He holds up his end quite well (and his boxing comes in handy more than once).

Better still is his love interest (not his wife), played by Evelyn Keyes. She does grow more important as the plot goes on, to the point that her acting career starts to take over the crime narrative. But this is so smartly done, and tied in so well (the play she wants to act in is "They Call It Murder"), it makes the movie that much more interesting. And makes our lead man all the more confused and isolated.

Along with all the good plot and decent acting that make any crime film in the 1950s fly, there is something else that is a characteristic B movie advantage--the sets and the little details in the background are not slicked up and over-stylized. It feels like we're in the real deal, so the ice cream shop and the streets and the docks all strike us as authentic. It's not a cheaply filmed movie. In fact, it feels like A-list movie in most ways, except that it lacks that patina of perfection that contemporary movies with bigger budgets have (from Wyler's films of the period, to Wilders, as a starting point).

The director is known mostly for "Kansas City Confidential," another B-noir. Payne is a second tier actor, making a lucky and oddly perfect appearance as the leading man in "Miracle on 34th Street." And Keyes had a long career with many roles such as this, though her moment in the sun was as Scarlett O'Hara's sister in "Gone with the Wind." Finally, cinematographer Franz (often credited as Frank) Planer was a consummate pro, doing a slew of great films including "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and four other Hepburn movies.

So if this was a surprise for me, it shouldn't have been. Sometimes talent pulls together just so, and here's a nice example.
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Hardboiled, Fast-Moving & Realistic
seymourblack-112 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
An ex-boxer struggles to get his life back on track in this gritty, hardboiled drama that's fast-moving, realistic and sometimes brutal. His efforts are constantly frustrated, however, by the hand that fate deals him and then things get even worse when his bitterness and self-pity make him bad-tempered and dangerously violent. This movie opens strongly with a well-filmed boxing match and closes impressively with a memorable climax. In between, its no-nonsense style, sharp dialogue and shadowy locations are perfect for this type of material and contribute enormously to its edgy atmosphere.

Ernie Driscoll (John Payne) is the ex-pug who was leading on points and desperately close to winning the world heavyweight title when an eye injury brought an end to his challenge and his career. A few years later, he works as a cab driver and saves what he can to buy his own gas station but his acquisitive wife Pauline (Peggie Castle) sneers at his aspirations. She works in a flower shop and is having an affair with a thief called Victor Rawlins (Brad Dexter) who, after stealing some diamonds, takes her with him to a pet shop owned by his fence Christopher (Jay Adler). Unfortunately, Christopher doesn't believe in doing business where women are involved and so refuses to pay Victor the $50,000 he was expecting and thwarts the couple's plan to use the money to go and live in style in Paris.

Ernie regularly frequents a drugstore where he has coffee with his long-time friend, Stan Hogan (Frank Faylen) who's a dispatcher at the cab company and also sees Linda James (Evelyn Keyes) who's an ambitious young actress. One day, when Linda tells him she's in trouble because she'd accidentally killed a theatre producer who was being too forceful in making advances to her, he agrees to help. Linda takes him to the theatre where he sees the body lying on the stage and Linda goes on to explain precisely what happened. Ernie offers to help her to dispose of the body, but at that point, the house lights come on and it becomes obvious that the whole incident is a hoax. Ernie becomes furious and after punching a few guys to the ground, leaves the premises.

A little while later, an apologetic Linda tells Ernie that the stunt at the theatre was set up as her audition for a part in an upcoming play and that the police are looking for him because the theatre people had reported the assaults hoping that the resultant publicity would translate into higher ticket sales. Ernie's troubled by this but matters get much worse when he and Linda discover Pauline's dead body in the back of his cab and the couple have to set off on a search to find the real culprit before Ernie gets apprehended for the crime.

One of the main strengths of this movie is the convincing way in which the fight sequences are executed as effective camera angles and realistic sounds add greatly to the power of these brutal encounters. John Payne is also very believable as a tough guy who, after suffering the huge disappointments involved with the way his boxing career ended, was betrayed by his wife, provoked into a series of assault charges and then framed for his wife's murder. These attributes plus the movie's excellent supporting cast and a script that's overflowing with quotable lines are just some of the reasons why "99 River Street" is an above average crime drama that's extremely enjoyable to watch.
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Cab Driver On A Mission
bkoganbing14 January 2011
99 River Street finds John Payne cast as a former heavyweight boxer now driving a cab having lost his chance at the title due to an eye injury in the same bout. His wife Peggie Castle who married him in his glamor days is running around with professional thief Brad Dexter behind Payne's back. Of course he's quite a bit put out when he discovers this.

But Castle's bought into a lot more than she could chew. Dexter killed a man on a robbery in which Castle had earlier cased the joint. As a result fence Jay Adler doesn't want to know from him or the jewels he robbed. And Castle's ready to come apart. Adler makes it clear he doesn't like dealing with women as a general rule in any case.

What to do, but murder Castle and frame Payne for it. But fortunately Payne has Evelyn Keyes along who witnesses the shock when Payne finds Castle's body dumped in his cab. She's already involved Payne in her own little scheme for Broadway stardom that didn't quite work out. But she initially comes off as an airhead, but in reality proves to be good when the going gets tough.

Phil Karlson who directed Payne in one of my favorite noir films Kansas City Confidential has Payne's character revved up to a white hot fury. This is not a man to get in the way of when he's on a mission.

Sad to say though he is a bit of fathead when it comes to picking women and they seem to run rings around him. It does kind of detract from him as a hero.

Producer Edward Small and director Karlson got a great group of supporting players like Eddy Waller, Jack Lambert, and most of all Frank Faylen as his former trainer now his cab dispatcher to support his stars besides the ones I already mention. Payne's final scene with Brad Dexter is reminiscent of his championship fight.

99 River Street while not up to Kansas City Confidential's standards is still pretty good and will keep your attention to John Payne and his mission.
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Keep your theatre and the rats in it.
Spikeopath25 September 2013
99 River Street is directed by Phil Karlson and adapted to screenplay by Robert Smith from a story by George Zuckerman. It stars John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter, Frank Faylen, Jay Adler, Eddie Waller and Peggie Castle. Music is by Arthur Lange and Emil Newman and cinematography by Franz Planer.

After sustaining a serious eye injury, boxer Ernie Driscoll (Payne) has had to retire from the ring and now drives a cab for a living. Constantly chided by his beautiful wife, Pauline (Castle), for being a failure, Ernie is close to breaking point when he finds that she is having an affair with a charismatic jewel thief. So when Pauline turns up dead in the back of Ernie's cab, he's obviously the chief suspect. But along with actress friend Linda James (Keyes), he attempts to unravel the mystery that is threatening to destroy his life.

Tough as old boots, 99 River Street is the kind of unsung film noir crying out to be discovered by more like minded cinephiles. Though short of expressionistic verve, which was never Karlson's thing anyway, all the elements for a nitty-gritty noir are in place. New York forms the backdrop as a city of broken dreams, shattered illusions, a place frequented by unfaithful spouses, shifty fences, violent thieves and theatrical luvvies so far removed from the real post war world it would be funny were it no so sad! Smack bang in the middle of this tainted Americana is Ernie Driscoll, basically a good guy, but when pushed into a corner emotionally or physically, he strikes out in the only way he knows how, with his fists.

As Karlson blurs the lines between the theatrical world and that of the real one, deftly essayed by Ernie and Linda, the director is clearly enjoying having such colourful characters to work with. Payne's tough guy anti-hero, Keyes' savvy heroine, Adler's unerringly menacing fence, Dexter's oily villain and Castle's disgustingly selfish wife. Throw in some thugs, persistent coppers and humane counterpoints portrayed by Faylen and Waller, and it's a nicely simmering broth of bad news, sexual suggestion and off-kilter redemption's. Violence is rife, and it's not the sort of staged violence that reeks of fake scents, this stuff hits hard, something which Karlson was always very adept at.

The director also introduces some striking filming techniques to pump the picture with an edgy frankness. The opening sequence featuring Ernie's last fight is wonderfully staged, low angles and close ups put the sweat and pain front and centre, it's a smart set-up for when the story comes full circle at film's punchy finale. Another sequence features a panic stricken Linda begging Ernie for his help with something, the camera sticks rigidly to her, this also is a delightful set-up that has a sting in the tail. There's mirror images dropped in, scene echoes that mean something of note, one of which sees Karlson film a shot dead centre through the spread legs of Castle. So cheeky, and what a pair of legs as well!

An unsung noir full of unsung actors (Payne is excellent) and directed with cunning absorption, 99 River Street is a must see. 8/10
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Payne is in a lot of Pain
dougdoepke20 January 2013
Poor Ernie. He takes a beating in the boxing ring, and then even a bigger one from two heartless women. You can just feel his smoldering emotion about to explode like a hand grenade on that theatre stage. All those theatre types rushing around patting themselves on the back, while he stands there, the disbelieving dupe.

As the luckless boxer turned cabbie turned fall guy, Payne's great. The anguish all over his cracked face. So how's he going to get back his self-respect when he keeps getting the short end of the stick. Now he's up for a murder rap unless he can track down the slippery Rawlins (Dexter), which doesn't get any easier especially after the cagey slickster puts a bullet hole in him. Rarely have I seen a movie where the lead takes such a beating.

But what can he expect when he's got that silken tramp Peggie Castle (Pauline) for a wife. Who could trust her around any man. Too bad actress Castle died so young; she was so good in these heartless roles. Then there's Eveline Keyes as Linda who can't seem to decide which side of the fence she's on. At least as an actress Keyes could give a graduate course in how to over-act, judging from the movie's first half.

This is a typical Phil Karlson film—you can feel the characters' pain even if it is up there on the movie screen. At times, Karlson's close-ups are a stunning portrait of agony. It's noir, for sure, even if the focus is more on character than shadowy atmosphere, though there's still a lot of the latter. At times the plot gets a little confusing, but that's okay since Ernie's supposed to be up against dark forces he can barely distinguish. Anyway, it's first-rate thick- ear, showing why Karlson's considered a master of crime drama that makes us not just see but feel as well.
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You Gotta Love a Noir with a Sense of Humor
evanston_dad10 May 2012
A superb noir from 1953 that stars an appealing John Payne as an ex-boxer who's maybe a little bit nuts and who gets framed for the murder of his wife. The bulk of the movie consists of him trying to expose the real killer before the police nab him, and he's ably abetted by Evelyn Keyes, who brings a sense of zaniness to the film as an actress friend of Payne who walks into this most outrageous and ghoulish scenario and acts like similarly outrageous and ghoulish things happen to her every day.

Director Phil Karlson, who was most known to me for directing a more famous and much grittier noir called "The Phenix City Story," guides this story along with a firm hand. The screenplay is pretty preposterous and requires its audience to suspend a great deal of disbelief. But that's part of its fun and charm, and the fact that the film has a really good sense of humor about itself helps tremendously.

This is one noir I had never heard of but am no immensely glad I've seen.

Grade: A
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Very Good Noir film all the way around
keith-7329 May 2011
John Payne plays a bitter cab driver saddled with a cheating wife who wants the moon and the stars and everything that goes with it. Something she realizes will never come married to this broken down hack. Such is the singular event that starts in motion a series of events, some coincidental, some planned and all of them unexpected. And unlike some lesser entries into the film noir black and white movies of the day, this has some totally logical and totally unexpected twists along the way. Peggie Castle was never sexier than this film, Evelyn Keyes was never more reserved-- until you get about the three quarters mark, and then she does one of the most erotic things I've ever seen in any film from 1953 or anywhere in the '50's. The fight scenes are gritty and realistic and the dialog is understated and not hysterical. And the pacing is big screen professional. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for some serious fun.
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A gritty John Payne...that's quite an improvement over his old persona.
MartinHafer21 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In the 1930s and 40s, John Payne played a handsome but relatively bland guy in many top films. He was eye candy and mostly played supporting characters. However, in 1950's Payne was no longer the handsome matinée idol and instead often took parts in tough westerns or film noir (such as "Kansas City Confidential"--as well as "99 River Street".

Payne plays a washed up boxer who is married to a cheating no-good tramp. She loved him well enough when he was on top in the fight game but now that he's no longer able to box, she is stepping out on him with a crook. He offers more excitement and all the fancy stuff that Payne cannot afford. Payne discovers them and storms off. In the meantime, the boyfriend and Payne's wife walk into a bad deal and Payne is set up with a very, very unfunny practical joke. Considering that following these events Payne is very publicly angry, he is the most likely suspect when his wife is killed--especially since the killer made sure to make it look like Payne's doing. So, it's up to Payne and a lady friend to clear himself and find the real killer before the cops find him. The only problem is that there are some REALLY dangerous characters out to kill the killer--and anyone else that gets in their way.

This is a very tough film--and one that is perfect for Payne's new image. The boxing scenes were brutal(with lots of atypical 1950s blood), the dialog snappy and the plot quite engaging. I also appreciated the wonderful vamp scene that Evelyn Keyes did near the end--you gotta see this one! An excellent noir thriller--and highly recommended.
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99 River- Goes Up the River ***1/2
edwagreen15 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent film noir with John Payne starring as an ex-prizefighter up to his neck in trouble. Evelyn Keyes steals the picture with some fine acting, particularly when she is using Payne to rehearse for a part in a Broadway show.

The film doesn't really make it look like women are exactly too nice here. Keyes, though redeeming herself, played Payne for a sap in that acting scene, and his movie-wife, Peggy Castle, acts like Virginia Mayo did in "The Best Years of Our Lives," when her marriage was over. Castle is two-timing Payne and gets punished for it by her lover, heavy Brad Dexter.

This is a very enjoyable mystery capped off with a great cast.
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I Don't Do Business With No Dames.
rmax30482314 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
John Payne, smart guy, not much of an actor, made a series of inexpensive studio-bound semi-noirs in the early 50s in which he was often the victim of a frame. In this one, he's an amiable ex boxer -- nice, masculine occupation -- who now drives a cab because of an eye injury. When he discovers that his gorgeous, sexy wife (Castle) is schtupping some thief, he becomes bitter and easily angered.

It's even worse because her boyfriend is Brad Dexter, the sleazy private eye who had shot Sterling Hayden in "The Asphalt Jungle." Peggy Castle simply has no taste, you know? Dexter is mixed up with a gang of armed robbers, fences, money launderers, and shoe fetishists or something. It's not clear exactly what such established heavies as the pop-eyed Jay Adler and the Neanderthal Jack Lambert actually do, besides double cross each other.

Adler has agreed to buy some stolen diamonds from Dexter but when Dexter show up with Payne's runaway wife in tow, Adler demurs. He don't do business with no dames because they can't be trusted. The solution to Dexter's conundrum is simple. He takes the luscious Peggy Castle up to his apartment, strangles her, and dumps the body in the back of Payne's cab.

Dexter finagles the fifty large from Adler but Adler wants the money back and pursues Dexter as he tries to make a getaway from a pier behind the River Cafe or whatever it is, in Jersey City. Payne is in pursuit of Dexter because, by this time, he's discovered that Dexter is the killer of his wife. Well -- not exactly. Actually that conclusion requires a leap of faith on Payne's part.

But let's not get into holes in the plot or, more generally, its weaknesses because then we'd have to figure out why so much emphasis is place on Payne's determination to return to boxing, a narrative thread abruptly dropped, like a corpse in the back seat of a taxi. We'd have to start wondering why Jay Adler has such a problem doing business with women around, even as mere witnesses. What did Adler's mother ever do to him? Speaking as a psychologist, I'd begin with deficient potty training. And then, too, we'd need to ponder Dexter's motives in dragging Peggy Castle along and insisting she witness the exchange of money and diamonds. We psychologists call this "separation anxiety." It's why children cry when they have to leave home for their first day of school. I have other questions too. To whom do I send this bill?

The director was Phil Karlson, who had a curious career. His work might be called clumsy by some but I think "primitive" is a more apt description. He does a headlong job, kind of like Samuel Fuller but without any irony or social comment. He rams the fast-paced plot down your throat whether you're ready or not. He made some clunkers but also some more disturbing things like "The Phoenix City Story" and "Five Against the House" and "Walking Tall."
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Who's Victor! Where can I find him!
sol-kay17 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Ex-professional prize fighter Earnie Driscoll, John Payne, has been working the nigh shift driving a cab for the last three years to earn enough money to open up a gas station and,in his mind, be on easy street for the rest of his life. It's Earnie's nagging wife Pauline, Peggy Castle, who's been busting his chops in what a failure he is in once being the #1 contender for the worlds heavyweight crown to now hacking for a living after the state boxing board revoked his license! That was after the beating he took in his title match with heavyweight champ Sailor Braxton, Hal Baylor, that almost left Earnie blind in one eye.

It's when Pauline got involved with diamond thief Victor Rawlins, Brad Dexter, that the roof fell in on Earnie's head. Not only looking to check out with Victor Pauline also gets unknowingly involved in a criminal act that he committed in murdering his diamond smuggling contact the Dutchman and taking his $50,000.00 worth of uncut diamonds that soon turned deadly for her. That's only after Earnie caught Pauline in the act of smooching with Victor as he came to pick her up from work at the flower shop! Mad as hell for being make a sucker of by Pauline Earnie got involved,in a friendly not romantic way, with aspiring actress Linda James, Evelyn Keyes, who in return got him involved in a murder that she committed! That's when the producer of the play Linda wanted a part in got a little too fresh with her and in a white hot rage she did him in! Or was it all an just an act to get the part on Linda's part!

Made a fool of, by Pauline and Linda, twice in one night was just too much for the proud but poor Earnie Driscoll to take but what happened next was anything but harmless! Pauline,in order to keep her mouth shut for good, got murdered by her now ex-lover Victor who then made Earnie to look like the fall guy, by sticking Pauline's body in the back seat of his cab, by framing him in her murder! Not only that but Mr. Christopher, Jay Adler, who was to fence the $50,000.00 in diamonds for Victor who later robbed him of it felt that it was Earnie as well as Victor who double crossed him in the deal by being Victor's partner!

On the run from the cops and Mr. Christopher's henchmen Earnie together with Linda, who's now in love with him, has only hours to prove his innocence before Victor, his only alibi to is wife Pauline's murder, checks out of the country on a freighter for France where he, and the $50,000.00 he robbed Mr. Christopher of, will never be seen or heard from again!

***SPOIERS*** Hard hitting film noir thriller with Earnie Driscoll taking it on the chin as well as chest, with a .38 slug, as he tracks down Victor Rawlins to the docks of Jersey City before he makes his getaway out of the country. Earnie got a lot of help from Linda who realized what a fink she was in her tricking him into thinking she was a murderess just to earn her a part in a Broadway play. In the end Earnie and Linda not only tied the knot but opened up a gas station that ended up doing record breaking business with the hundreds of New York City cabbies, who worked out of the same taxi garage that Earnie did, exclusively filling up their gas-tanks there!
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