Cry Danger (1951) - Blu Ray May 4, 2014 9:34:10 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on May 4, 2014 9:34:10 GMT -5
Thanks to Olive Films a top notch crime drama with leanings towards Film Noir has finally been released on DVD and Blu Ray.
OK, truth be told you could say that about several movies, as Olive has gotten into the Classic Film business wholeheartedly.
In this case the movie is Cry Danger, a nifty detective story starring the great Dick Powell. Powell had made his name in Hollywood in the 1930's as an actor in light drama and musical comedies. He was a crooner, a song and dance man. And then he started aging. Powell knew that his leading man roles in that kind of movie would be harder and harder to come by, so at age 40 he made the decision to become a tough guy in hard boiled crime and detective movies. One movie changed his career forever. That movie was Murder, My Sweet (1944) which featured Powell playing the legendary character Philip Marlowe. Powell was, in fact, the first actor to play Marlowe on the big screen. The movie was a big hit, and Powell followed it up with another Edward Dmytryk directed Film Noir, Cornered, and then Powell took on the leading role as Richard Rogue in the radio drama (yes, a detective show), Rogue's Gallery.
The die was cast, and Powell was now firmly cemented in moviegoers minds as a wisecracking tough guy.
By 1951 Powell had moved on to another hard boiled detective show on radio, this time in Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Richard Diamond was a great radio show, more often than not written by future feature film director Blake Edwards. Edwards' scripts were loaded with biting, witty one liners, and Powell delivered them with a brilliant low key snarky gusto. It was the kind of marriage of talents of which radio producers usually could only dream. The show was a a big success.
And in 1951 RKO released Cry Danger, a movie that found Powell delivering the kind of witty, biting one liners that he did so well on radio as Richard Diamond. (I wouldn't find it at all surprising if Powell brought Edwards in to punch up the script - uncredited, of course - a practice not unheard of in Hollywood back then, and one that is commonplace now.) The movie was yet another hit for Powell.
Cry Danger opens with Powell as Rocky Mulloy arriving in Los Angeles after being pardoned for a crime he didn't commit. The problem for Mulloy is very few people believe he was really innocent of the crime for which he had spent five years in prison. Most notably, L.A. police detective Gus Cobb and a crippled former Marine named Delong who had come forward to provide an airtight alibi for Mulloy, prompting the pardon.
Delong's alibi, however, was a lie as the two had never met and never even seen each other previously. Delong believed that Mulloy really did have all or part of the $100,000 (worth over a million dollars today) that he had been convicted of stealing (as part of a heist that saw someone killed, thus a life sentence for Mulloy). Detective Cobb also believes that Mulloy either took part in the robbery or knows who did and where the money is (the money had never been recovered). This is all laid out in the first five minutes of the movie right after Rocky gets off the train and before he can even leave the station.
From there Cry Danger becomes a detective movie without a licenced detective leading the investigation. Mulloy is looking to get his hands on the money as he feels he is entitled to it since he went to prison for stealing it. And Mulloy does know who was involved in the robbery, at least the man who came up with the plan (and who, Rocky believed, likely took part in the holdup) - Louie Castro. When Mulloy meets with Castro (played by radio's Marshal Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke, William Conrad) he makes it plain that he wants the money, or else. Castro isn't thrilled to see Rocky, nor is he eager to give up the money. He gives Mulloy $500 and tips him off on a horse that is sure to win a race the next day as a longshot. Mulloy places the bet with the local bookie that Castro suggests and from there the mystery gets deeper before it is cleared up.
The movie is a very good crime drama that occasionally plants it's feet into Film Noir ground. It is not as dark as a full blown Film Noir, but it is darker and features a more character self destruction (typical of films noir) than do many movies that have since been lumped into the, "Film Noir," category. Director Robert Parrish did a fine job of filming the movie (along with cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc), and he keeps the film moving along at a good pace (not too fast, though, as he and editor Bernard W. Burton allow the story to unfold without being rushed). Parrish also did a great job handling the actors, as just about everyone involved gave good (or, in some cases, very good) performances. The cast seems confident and comfortable in their roles.
Powell, of course, is right at home playing the kind of character that is a little bitter when he should be furiously angry (having spent five years in prison for something he didn't do, something for which he was framed - and he knew who framed him). Rocky Mulloy is pragmatic. He knows who set him up, but he wants money as his payback, not murder. As noted previously, the script is loaded with great dialogue and one liners for Powell that could have easily been written by Blake Edwards for Powell's then current radio show, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Whether or not Edwards acted as a script doctor is unknown, but his style is there. It is more than possible that screenwriter William Bowers merely copied the style of one-liners that Powell had read so well on radio. Bowers' script is excellent for this type of crime drama, and if he wrote it alone (as he was credited), then he did a fantastic job.
Fans of the 1946 classic The Big Sleep would have loved Cry Danger then, and newer fans of Bogart's film playing Philip Marlowe who have discovered the movie in recent years will likewise love Cry Danger today. It is a very, very good crime drama that fans of Film Noir will greatly enjoy.
As for Olive Films' Blu Ray, it looks spectacular. No, it hasn't gone through a full digital restoration, removing every spec of dust and every scratch, but it is fairly clean and the print is excellent. It is crisp and sharp, with nice film grain that doesn't look overly grainy - it just looks like actual film and not digital video (so, obviously, this hasn't gone through excessive digital noise reduction, and it is more likely that none at all has been used). The contrast is just about perfect with good shadow detail along with solid blacks. Olive may not have the budget to fully restore films, but they get the best copies they can, and this one had been preserved by UCLA so it is in very good shape. This is one of those releases that really benefits from the Blu Ray format - it looks great. (Probably better than most filmgoers saw when they went to see it in the theaters back in 1951.)
If you're a fan of classic movies (especially if you're a fan of Film Noir or crime dramas) then you should definitely pick up a copy of this Olive Films Blu Ray. You'll be glad you did.
Movie - 4.5/5
Blu Ray Picture Quality - 4.5/5