Director Robert Siodmak brings a terrific neorealist style to this tense, punchy 1948 movie of two men on opposite sides of the law.
The Italianate job … Richard Conte and Shelley Winters in Cry of the City. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Allstar
The German-born Robert Siodmak brings a fascinatingly Italianate, neorealist touch to this hardboiled noir thriller from 1948, with terrific location work in New York City – revived in UK cinemas as part of a BFI retrospective which will reinforce Siodmak’s reputation as a great stylist. The story is about two guys who grew up together on either side of the law, in time-honoured style: Martin Rome (Richard Conte) is a petty thief, laid up in hospital, shot in the leg after a botched robbery, now facing execution for killing a police officer. (Later, a reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp is glimpsed on a wall.) Lt Candella (played by Victor Mature with that sorrowfully refined, worldly, almost sensual gaze) knew him from a shared boyhood in their immigrant Italian community. He is on Rome’s trail as the hoodlum escapes – a marvellous, suspenseful sequence – and tracks down the crooked lawyer who wants to implicate Rome’s entirely innocent girlfriend Teena (Debra Paget) for a quite different crime. The sequences on the rainy, neon-lit streets of downtown Manhattan are brought off with exhilarating flair and the two men’s closeup confrontations have power and punch.