The Garment Jungle, a contemporary expose of New York garment employers’ use of racketeers to keep unions out, disappoints. Finished by director Vincent Sherman after Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) left production towards the end of shooting, for a Columbia a-feature it is largely set-bound, and suffers for it.
The whole affair sags and ends with a weak resolution. Lee J. Cobb in the lead is sadly flat. Robert Loggia as an Italo-American union organiser is strong and the performance of the tragic Gia Scala as his young wife dominates the picture. She is palpably alive on the screen and thoroughly immersed in her role. The sequence where she is introduced is the film’s highlight. Shot at a union dancing-class on a steamy-night where the dance music is a dissonant counterpoint to the drama, she is by turns sensual, fiery, gentle, and despairing. Here and in the external shots on the streets of NY, when they are used, the mise-en-scene and cinematography are truly inspired. We can commend cameraman Joseph F. Biroc, but who directed these scenes? My bet was Aldrich.
Silver and Ward list the movie in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference, and to my mind ‘invent’ some film noir connections in the mise-en-scene and the lighting of some scenes. But For me The Garment Jungle is strictly melodrama.