A serial killer has been killing beautiful women in New York and the new owner of a media company offers a high ranking job to the first of his senior executives who can get the earliest scoops on the case.
Bedridden Amos Kyne is the owner and manager of Kyne Enterprises. Upon Amos' death, his son, the ineffectual and disliked Walter Kyne, takes control of the business. Not wanting to do any of the work but retain the glory, Walter creates a new position, "executive director", who effectively will become head of the organization, and a power struggle erupts between the executives. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on a rampage in New York City, and women fear for their lives. Reporter Ed Mobley tries to catch the killer and to prevent Kyne Enterprises from being destroyed over boardroom intrigues. A surprise "dark horse" wins the "executive director" position.Written by
Huggo (updated by Rms125a@hotmail.com)
In the scene where the Lipstick Killer is being chased through the city streets, a police car carrying Dana Andrews (as news reporter Edward Mobley) drives past a movie theater where Dana Andrews' name is clearly visible on the marquee. See more »
When the murderer opens the envelope that came with the flowers outside the door of Nancy's apartment, he uses a knife to cut open the envelope. When he puts the card back in the envelope, he licks the envelope flap and closes it...it was not cut. See more »
[as he's holding Nancy tight in her apartment's doorway]
I should have a permit.
To kiss me?
Hmm... an explorer's permit.
Do explorers have to have permits?
They should have, especially when they're headed for uncharted territory.
[Nancy pushes away from Ed and glares at him]
Forgive me angel, I know not what I say.
See more »
Between 1936 and 1956, during his tenure in America, the German director Fritz Lang made some of the most psychologically astute movies ever to come out of the studio system, often working with the flimsiest of material; pulpish fiction indeed. Most of these films were thrillers, though perhaps only in the most nebulous sense of the term, dealing instead with the psychosis of the killer or, as here, with the iniquitous motives of those on the periphery of the case. 'Plot', in the strictest sense of the term, never really interested Lang, 'the story' as such being secondary to the observational detail and the characterizations. In "While the City Sleeps" the serial killer whom we expect to be at the centre is side-lined to such an extent that catching him is never the focus of attention. He's the 'McGuffin', if you like, for an entirely different movie, one in which the thriller element is dispatched in favour of a study of greed and the relationships, not always savory, between men and women.
The film is set in the world of newspapers and news agencies, so you expect an aura of venality from the outset. Vincent Price is the vain, self-centered scion of a recently deceased magnate who has taken over his father's business and wants someone else to do all the work. So he creates a new executive position then sets three of his top men against each other vying for the job. The one who 'catches' or names the serial killer terrorizing women in New York, gets it.
Like many of Lang's films, "While the City Sleeps" had the tawdry feel of a B-movie. There is a kind of rough urgency to it that a more main-streamed movie might have lacked. (You could say Lang's genius was for making silk purses out of sow's ears). He didn't work with 'stars' but character players. About the biggest name in the movie and the 'star' of the picture is Dana Andrews, (superb, he was a very under-rated actor), as the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who, like many of Lang's characters, is less noble than he first appears. As for the rest, despite there being two Oscar winners in the cast, (George Sanders, one of his poorer performances, and Thomas Mitchell, excellent), they were mainly the stable diet of the B-movie, though that said there is a terrific performance from the under-rated Sally Forrest as Andrews' girl who he is not above using as bait to catch the killer and a typically flamboyant one from Ida Lupino.
After this, Lang was to make only one more film in America before returning to his native Germany, the equally cynical "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Indeed it's Lang's cynicism and his critique of American values and mores that set him apart, that put him, like those other European émigrés, Otto Preminger and Douglas Sirk at a critical remove from his American counterparts. In this respect, perhaps, the only American who can be compared to him is Samuel Fuller.
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