Cry of the City by Robert Siodmak, USA 1948.
Opening on 17 April 2015 at BFI Southbank, IFI Dublin and selected cinemas UK wide.
Richard Comte and Victor Mature play the heroes in this black and white thriller. I say heroes even though Comte is a crook and Mature the cop. They are, of course, a kind of brotherhood, a pair who come from the same Italian working class background and who epitomise a harsh male glamour. Mature is the obsessive predator and Comte his smart and seductive prey. It is clear to see how this movie influenced Martin Scorcese and, as such, offers a double pleasure in the viewing.
Shot in black and white and set in a grimy Little Italy, the neo-realism of the street reveals a vision of immigrants crawling out of poverty and finding some way of making it or being destroyed by the struggle for success in America. The movie is adapted from the novel The Chair for Martin Rome by Henry Edward Helseth. What I valued most is the way that Siodmak uses the amazing personality of the larger than life actor Hope Emerson as the brutal masseuse and double-crosser. Women are not just eye candy in the late 1940s world of his film noir and Siodmak can certainly be lauded as a director who gets close to passing the Bechdel Test long before it was so named.
Siodmak fled the Nazis and worked in France and Hollywood where he was as prized as Fritz Lang for his brilliant film noir technique.
The NFT presents a major retrospective of Siodmak’s work in April-May which is to be warmly welcomed.
Julia Pascal © 2015.