61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious slice of classic film noir!
This has always been one of my favorite Richard Widmark films, and it's also one of the most underated film noirs of all time. Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a hopeless hustler and conman in London who dreams of making it big. Gene Tierney plays his girlfriend, who also falls prey to Fabian's schemes and tricks. Fabian comes up with a plan to become a "bigshot": be a...
Published on December 18, 2004 by Dave
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over the top
I love film noir and gritty crime drama, but consider this film so exaggerated and melodramatic that it becomes cartoonish - almost a parody of film noir. The music is overbearing and brass blares at every dramatically lit closeup, the camera tilted off center, every face bathed in sweat and contorted in fear or rage. It telegraphs emotion like a 1930s comic book, lacks...
Published 11 months ago by kevnm
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious slice of classic film noir!,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)This has always been one of my favorite Richard Widmark films, and it's also one of the most underated film noirs of all time. Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a hopeless hustler and conman in London who dreams of making it big. Gene Tierney plays his girlfriend, who also falls prey to Fabian's schemes and tricks. Fabian comes up with a plan to become a "bigshot": be a promoter in the wrestling world, and arrange for one of the biggest matches in London's history. The problem is that he has to meet the approval of the leader of London's underworld, and that's where his plans fall apart. The suckers who supported Fabian soon realize their error, and the mob comes looking for Fabian with a vengeance, in one of the most memorable chases in film noir history. Fabian has no one left to turn to, except his helpless girlfriend, but even she can do nothing to save him. The ending is one of the best (in my opinion) of all film noirs. Even though Widmark's character is totally unlikable, I consider this one of his finest performances. Gene Tierney is also great, but she gets far too little screen time. I've waited years for this classic to be released on dvd, and finally my wish has been answered! If you're even remotely interested in classic film noir, this dvd is a definite must-have!
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RUN HARRY RUN....,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) always seems to be running. From thugs, backfired schemes, rip-offs, etc. In London, he hits upon a surefire get-rich-quick scheme: to promote a one-time famous wrestler, Gregorius (Stanilaus Zbyszko), in direct opposition to the current wrestling kingpin Kristo (a young Herbert Lom), Greogorius' son. But, as always, money is the problem. He finds backing from an oily night club owner's wife (Googie Withers) who has big plans of her own. But the night club owner Nosserus (Francis L.Sullivan) is on to Fabian's scheme and the double-cross has disastrous results as Fabian tries to keep the gig going at all costs. Jules Dassin created a small masterpiece with this 1950 film noir and Criterion has done it justice on the disc with fine extras and a good print. The film boasts an excellent British/American cast and a great score by Franz Waxman. Widmark is dynamic as Fabian and Gene Tierney is good as Mary, his long suffering girlfriend who works in Nosserus' club, The Silver Fox. But the best female role is Withers as Helen, who reveals a ruthlessness that surpasses even Fabian's wild schemes. "Night and the City" pulls no punches in showing what happens to some people who stop at nothing to get what they want at the expense of others...and how big dreams can turn into nightmares. Highly recommended.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American/British Hybrid with Wonderful Noir Style.,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)"Night and the City" was director Jules Dessin's last film before falling victim to the Hollywood Blacklist for 5 years. Shot in London and based on the novel by Gerald Kersh, it's a film noir great, but not strictly an American film. Screenwriter Jo Eisinger radically altered Kersh's novel. And there are two versions of the film: one exclusively for English consumption and this American version, into which director Jules Dessin had more input and which was also released to international markets. The English version is longer and features an entirely different score. But this is the shorter, tighter, more cynical American version of "Night and the City".
"Night and the City" takes place among the hustlers, club owners, and purveyors of evening entertainment in London. Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) works as a club tout for The Silver Fox nightclub, targeting monied guests at local hot spots, cozying up to them with tall tales, and sending them over to the club for a good time. But Harry's always got scheme to get rich, as opposed to a plan of how to make a living, much to his girlfriend Mary's (Gene Tierney) chagrin. Harry's "highly inflamed imagination, coupled by delusions of grandeur" -as his employer bluntly remarks- never get him anywhere but into debt. One night Harry overhears a conversation between a old Greco-Roman wrestling champion, Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko), and his son Kristo (Herbert Lom), the promoter for all London's wrestling matches. Harry sees the opportunity to exploit the elder man's distaste for the new flamboyant style of wrestling to set himself up as a promoter of old-style Greco-Roman wrestling. Gregorius agrees to work with him, and, although Kristo has a monopoly on wrestling in London, he is forced to allow Harry to proceed. But Harry must raise the cash to promote his first match. His employer, Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) agrees to put up half of the money if Harry can match it. Harry can only do that by taking money from Nosseross' scheming wife, Helen (Googie Withers), in exchange for illegally obtaining a nightclub license for her. But Phil actually wants Harry ruined and cooperates with Kristo to see that he doesn't succeed.
The plot is convoluted. Harry goes through so many contortions to make himself into a wrestling promoter, it's a wonder he can keep his own scheme straight. Richard Widmark plays Harry beautifully. He's a loser and a heel, but he's surrounded by more predatory creatures than himself. Harry is so self-absorbed that he's blind to the vengeance he has inspired -and, of course, to the very patient woman who loves him. "All my life I've been running," he says. And that's what Harry does for all of this film, figuratively and literally. Other notable performances are Francis L. Sullivan as Phil, a thoroughly greedy man who is not so foolish as Harry, and Stanislaus Zbyszko as the naive but imposing Gregorius. Zbyszko is not a professional actor. He was a wrestling champion and international celebrity in his younger years -and I understand a very cultured man.
Max Greene's cinematography is classic film noir. Most of "Night and the City" takes place at night. It was filmed on location in London's dark, wet streets, which lend themselves perfectly to high contrast lighting and deep focus. I don't think I've ever seen as much close-up wide-angle photography as in this film. Greene brazenly distorts his characters, to a more noticeable extent than in most film noir. "Night and the City" is in some ways an oddity of the film noir style, because it takes place in Europe, was scripted and filmed by Americans, based on a British novel, with a mixed cast whose nationalities are never explained. It's filmed in an American style, but it's not an American film. On the other hand, "Night and the City"'s obsessed, irredeemable characters, cynicism, and visual style are exemplary of film noir. The great performances and noir cinematography are a joy to watch.
The DVD (Criterion Collection 2005 release): This is a very nice package of bonus features, starting with an audio commentary by film scholar Glenn Erikson, who wrote the essay "Expressionist Doom in Night and the City" for the first Film Noir Reader book. In this informative and interesting commentary, Mr. Erikson gives nearly a scene-by-scene analysis of the film in which he discusses and compares 4 versions of the story: the novel, the shooting script, the American Film, and the English film, in terms of story, characters, and history. Other bonus features include a "Jules Dessin Interview" (17 minutes) in which the director talks about casting, shooting the final sequence with 6 cameras, making the movie without having read the book, and being blacklisted in Hollywood. "2 Versions, 2 Scores" (23 minutes) is a documentary knowledgeably narrated by Christopher Husted that compares the film scores of Franz Waxman (American version) and Benjamin Frankel (English version), as well as the two different edits of the film. (Both scores are available on a double CD from [...]) There is a 1972 "Ciné-Parade Interview" (25 minutes) with the director in which Dessin talks to a very curious French interviewer about his difficulties working under the studio system in Hollywood and being blacklisted in the early 1950s. The interview is in French with English subtitles. There is a theatrical trailer for "Night and the City" (2 minutes). Subtitles are available for the film in English, via your remote control "subtitle" button, but I couldn't find a "set-up" or "languages" menu.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great acting by Richard Widmark,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)I'm surprised that Richard Widmark wasn't nominated as best actor for this movie after seeing the movie. What's wrong with the Academy, huh? Richard Widmark helped make the movie enjoyable to watch. I thought he was never going to run out of energy for his excellent performance. This movie reminds me of Tony Curtis in "Sweet Smell of Success" in comparison. The only difference is their profession.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Film Noir - London-style!,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)After being blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy-era witch hunts, director Jules Dassin moved to London and made the classic film noir, Night and the City for 20th Century Fox. He presents a shadowy underworld where life is cheap and money is king. Its inhabitants consist of drunks, thieves and other desperate people scrambling to eke out some kind of existence.
There is an audio commentary by none other than the DVD Savant himself, Glenn Erickson, author of The Film Noir essay on Night and the City. Erickson touches upon the film's troubled production history and references the book, the film's script and both versions, including cut scenes. This is a very knowledgeable track as Erickson covers many aspects of the movie.
In the "Jules Dassin Interview," he talks about how the Hollywood blacklisting made his life difficult. The veteran director tells some fascinating anecdotes in this substantial extra.
"2 Versions, 2 Scores" examines the musical score for the British version by Benjamin Frankel and the American one by Franz Waxman. Waxman's score is more dynamic while Frankel's is not as melodramatic.
"Cine-Parade Interview" is a 1972 French interview with Dassin who talks about his life and career, including an amusing anecdote about shooting a scene with Joan Crawford.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best of the best,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)For me, this movie I saw first time perhaps 40 years ago is superb and simply the best I have seen.
We see, this is mainly the story of Harry Fabian, a cheap swindler from London, played superbly by Richard Widmark. But is also the tale of how Gregorius, a man perhaps simple and ingenuous, but essentially good can change dirt in sport, in life and destroy evil no matter the cost. The problem with Harry is he wants to become someone important in life, but although smart, he hasn't category enough for that. Harry is immersed in a world of lies and small tricks to survive precariously from a day to another. He flirts for interests bordering adultery and has a girlfriend he also has finally to treason. Truly, Harry does work much, but mostly wrong, and as man and even as a full criminal he falls short. His activities are varied, but centred mostly in the world of betting in arranged tricky Greco - Roman fight. The problem is one night the wrestling show is seen and recognized as trash by Gregorius, the retired true champion. This most affectionate personage becomes another victim deceived by Harry to enter in a fraudulent business of fight, but as a true sportsman, his right behaviour has to cost Harry a final terrible price, because he's the father of Kristo, now a cruel gangster played by Herbert Lom which dominates these subworld of crime and fraud. There's effectively a mediocre wrestler who in his stupidity thinks he's a champion. Circumstances complicate and a true fight explodes between him and Gregorius who wins, but dies. Kristo, knowing Harry is responsible, offer a high price to kill him to all criminal world of London. I still are affected in the scene when the Gregorius dies without any fear, after have living a clean, full life. He has to destroy lies and dirt at less for a time. Superb film, superb play, nothing in common with the disappointing modern version.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A WAY TO ATTAIN "A LIFE OF EASE AND PLENTY" !!,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)IN A NUTSHELL: may contain plot spoilers
Set in London, this film noir from 1950 is a requiem for a bubbling, manic, con man by the name of Harry Fabian played by Richard Widmark. Fabian is literally an "artist without an art" according to Hugh Marlowe playing neighbor Adam Dunn. Fabian is seeking "a life of ease and plenty". Within his frame of reference, the methods which Fabian utilizes are the cause of his demise from a wanna-be with high hopes to a chalk-outline.
WHAT I THINK ABOUT "THE NIGHT AND THE CITY":
This is a well-acted and concisely-plotted drama, maybe even a tragedy, but it is dark in every way. Most of the scenes are at night and the characters with few exceptions are dark, seedy, lowlifes with motivations and lifestyles to match. The film depicts a London at its worst, populated with its worst citizens, or so it seems, sort of the opposite setting and characters as "Laura" which also starred Gene Tierney.
ABOUT GENE TIERNEY:
Gene Tierney's role was little more than an afterthought at the studio's request, which we discover in the interview with the Director Jules Dassin on the DVD. Her character really needed to be better integrated into the plot.
Enough praise can't be given to Widmark who played Fabian for his over-the-top depiction of a grifter bringing down the house -- on his own head!
ABOUT THE CAST & PRODUCTION TEAM:
Richard Widmark - Harry Fabian [NO telescope needed to see this Comet's last flight]
Gene Tierney - Mary Bristol [underutilized in every way]
Googie Withers - Helen Nosseross [the "B" word comes to mind!]
Hugh Marlowe - Adam Dunn [nice guys do finish last]
Francis L. Sullivan - Phil Nosseross [plays a large, scary, bad dude!]
Herbert Lom - Kristo [signs for Fabian's epitaph]
Stanislaus Zbyszko - Gregorius [won his last fight, remains undefeated, may he R.I.P.]
Mike Mazurki - Strangler [still learning to tie his own shoelaces]
Jules Dassin - Director [last film before black-listing]
Samuel G. Engel - Producer
Joe Eisinger - Screenwriter
Gerald Kersh - Book Author
Mutz Greenbaum - Cinematographer
Franz Waxman - Composer (Music Score)
ABOUT THE DVD:
This is a "Criterion" DVD so it is a great transfer of a clean print. However, it is quite expensive and this 1-disk release has far fewer features than most Criterion releases.
Available Subtitles: English; Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Audio commentary by film scholar Glenn Erickson
Video interview with director Jules Dassin
Excerpts from a 1972 French interview with Dassin
Two Versions, Two Scores, a look at two different scores composed for the British and American releases of the film
New essay by film critic Paul Arthur
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Artist without a Medium,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)Sadly fatalistic, Jules Dassin's lovely masterpiece, Night and the City, was shot in London in 1950, just as the film maker was being blacklisted in Hollywood. At this point in his career, Dassin was a little like Harry Fabian, an artist without a medium, running from McCarthy era Hollywood. This excellent noir prefigures his Cannes winner Rafifi, which was to follow in 1955, and the two of them viewed back-to-back is fantastic. Richard Widmark, Googie Withers, and Hugh Marlowe, in fact, everyone in the cast, including the rare and beautiful real-life Polish wrestler Staislaus Zbyszko, deliver striking performances under Dassin's direction. German cinematographer Max Greenbaum captures London's underworld where beggars are under franchise and everyone sells out.
Richard Widmark, from the get-go in Hollywood, stole pictures with his remarkable acting style: Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, 1947, Skip McCoy in Pickup on South Street, 1953, Colonel Lawson the prosecuting attorney in Judgement at Nuremburg, 1961. But it is in this 1950 noir that Widmark reaches his height. His body movements, his wonderfully expressive face, which moves in the light almost like a modern dancer, deftly embody the complex psychological state of Harry Fabian and create pathos in us despite the character's selfish intentions. He's the skinny neighborhood kid who teases the bully (in this case London's underworld tzars) then runs for his life. Whether his friends love or fear his enthusiasm and his moxie, they all know that one day he won't run fast enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREAT FILM NOIRS,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)To listen to the director tell it in an interview many years later, it's amazing this movie got made at all but apparently the seat-of-the-pants method worked (sort of like CASABLANCA). This movie starts with Harry running and ends with him running (but not fast enough this time); always one step ahead of his last sucker. Richard Widmark did not get too many juicy roles in his career but there is no doubt that this was one that made this picture a classic. My favorite scene (and there are many great ones) is near the end in Anna O'Leary's houseboat where he's ruminating about his losses and she nervously pulls out a cigarette, lights it and hands it to Harry as though he's about to face a firing squad. Although I admire the DeNiro remake for different reasons, there is no comparison between these 2 versions...this one will live on while the later version is just interesting. This is moviemaking at it's best!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Near Perfect Film Noir,
This review is from: Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)Director Jules Dassin ("Thieve's Highway") is experiencing a bit of a renaissance due to the recent release of some of his films on DVD. Working within the studio system, he created a number of very fine examples of Film Noir, which are flawed by the same problem. His career was cut short by the Blacklist of the 50s. Named as a communist, he found that he was unable to work in the U.S.. Daryl Zanuck, one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, sensed what was about to happen and handed him a book called "Night and The City." Zanuck urged him to write the script quickly and begin shooting the most expensive scenes first, on location in London, to prevent Twentieth Century - Fox from pulling the plug. "Night and the City" would be his last studio film. Thanks to the Criterion Collection, we can watch some of his films in pristine, beautiful prints.
Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) roams the streets of London looking for his next get rich quick scheme. To earn a living, he makes a commission from each of the "marks" he sends to a `private club', the Silver Fox. The club is populated with women who are always thirsty for another glass of champagne and waiters who are always at the gentleman's elbow ready to pour another glass. His girlfriend, Mary (Gene Tierney, "Leave Her To Heaven"), a hostess at the club, is tired of bailing Harry out of one fix after another. But she still loves him. Following a mark into a wrestling match, he overhears Kristo (Herbert Lom, Inspector Dreyfuss in "The Pink Panther" films) having a fight with his father, Gregorius The Great, a real wrestler from Greece, who is upset with his son for running fixed wrestling matches. Harry befriends Gregorius and convinces the wrestler he will promote a fair wrestling match. The only catch is that Harry doesn't have the 400 pounds he needs to set up his new venture.
"Night and the City" is a great example of Film Noir. Shot on location in London, the film depicts a darker side of the city than we are used to. There is a great shot, late in the film; one of Kristo's henchmen has been told to spread the word that there is a 1000 pound bounty on Harry's head. He jumps into his car and speeds around a busy intersection, stopping every few yards to talk to a newspaper hawker, a shoe shine boy, a beggar, etc. No dialogue is necessary or used as he drives through what appears to be Piccadilly Circus.
The film, shot in black and white, takes place predominately at night. All of the interiors are dusty, smoke filled clubs and flats. When the characters venture outside, streetlights glow, barely penetrating the darkness. The look is extremely convincing and effective, adding to the mood of impending danger for Harry.
Of the cast, the supporting actors fair better than the two leads. Richard Widmark, never one of my favorites, is good as Harry. As he runs from one contact to the next, begging them to help him raise the money for his newest venture, we feel his desperation. But his performance is marred by a couple of instances of outbreaks. Begging one of his contacts for money, he suddenly begins shouting at their denial. I understand that he is frustrated, I get that, but his actions are too theatrical. This is also the complaint I had with "Thieve's Highway", another Dassin film recently released on DVD. Harry's desperation and need are almost palpable until he breaks down into hysterics. Gene Tierney, an actress due for a revival of interest in her work, is good as Mary, Harry's long suffering girlfriend, but the role is small, really more of a supporting role. Even though she is a "hostess" at the Silver Fox, she manages to convince us that she is good. We also get why she continues to love Harry. Despite his flaws, she wants to love him and overlook his problems. I just wish her role had been more integral to the overall story.
The supporting cast is truly memorable. Francis Sullivan plays Phil, the owner of the Silver Fox and Googie Withers plays Helen, his wife and former "hostess". Their relationship is wicked, twisted and almost Shakespearean in scope. Phil buys her a Silver Fox stole, to entice her to kiss him, but Helen won't have it. Phil angrily takes the stole back. Herbert Lom is also quite good as the quiet, menacing Kristo, a man determined to retain his hold on the piece of London he controls.
"Night and the City" is a near perfect example of Film Noir. A dark story with believable characters from the underside of life, set in a surprising environment.
And that ending! Memorable and surprising. I didn't see it coming.
Dassin would follow this film with "Riffifi", a French Noir, which is easily one of the best examples ever made of the genre.
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Night and the City (The Criterion Collection) by Jules Dassin (DVD - 2005)