Following a five-year absence from Hollywood, his career sadly in decline, Tuttle returned with a tersely directed crime story. Alan Ladd (whose company produced the film) was responsible for this comeback, paying some of his dues to the man who made him a star. The script by Boehm and Rackin is hardly original but it is sensitively and sharply written, giving Tuttle the chance to focus in on the drama. As with Suspense, however, Tuttle took an unconventional approach by leaving most of the killing and the action off-screen. Steve, an ex-cop who has been jailed on charges of manslaughter, is released from San Quentin after five years (an allusion to Tuttle’s own situation?). His only concern is to find the guilty party. He heads straight to the fishing ports of San Francisco Bay – superbly shot on location in CinemaScope by John F. Seitz – where everything is controlled by Vic Amato, a crooked businessman and gangster who is in fact behind the murder for which Steve was charged. This is Edward G. Robinson’s film through and through. He crackles with amazing energy and makes the air thick with corruption. Vic manipulates the dock workers, many of whom are fellow Italian immigrants, and even gives the order to kill a member of his own family. He uses people’s weaknesses to push them into a corner, sucking them dry. When they are no longer useful, they are cast into the Bay. To Vic, people are little different from the fish. Conveying both charisma and evil, when he gives a statue of Christ an empty look in one scene, the depth of his bitterness and immorality is revealed. Tuttle brings the background dramas to the fore, which become the film’s main driving force: Vic’s relationship with his devout wife, and the redeeming connection between his assistant Joe, a conman with a heart, and the washed-up movie star he is in love with, played by Fay Wray. In A Cry in the Night, made a year later and again produced by Ladd, Tuttle would still show a sense of command and an ability to muster new ideas – but this is perhaps the last film of his in which every scene has the stamp of a master.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: from the novel The Darkest Hour (1955) by William McGivern. Scen.: Sydney Boehm, Martin Rackin. F.: John F. Seitz. M.: Folmar Blangsted. Scgf.: John Beckman. Mus.: Max Steiner. Int.: Alan Ladd (Steve Rollins), Edward G. Robinson (Victor Amato), Paul Stewart (Joe Lye), Joanne Dru (Marcia Rollins), William Demarest (Dan Bianco), Fay Wray (Kay Stanley), Perry Lopez (Mario Amato), Renata Vanni (Anna Amato), Rod Taylor (John Brodie Evans), Peter Hansen (detective Connors), Jayne Mansfield (ragazza al dance club). Prod.: George C. Bertholon, Alan Ladd per Jaguar Productions. DCP
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