Summary Noir Reviews: Drunken Angel on River Street Rocks

99 River Street (1953)

99 River Street (1953) Essential Phil Karlson b. Pulp poetry from DP Franz Planer. Matches the best of Anthony Mann and Sam Fuller. Evelyn Keys is hot! A cab-driver fights a murder wrap after his cheating wife leaves him for a ruthless hood.  Keys steals this picture as a budding actress who helps the cab-driver in a night of noir entrapment.  Her ‘seduction’ scene with the hood is the stuff of dreams – leaving Ella Raines in her jazz scene in Phantom Lady (1944) in the mud.  Chiaroscuro lensing of Franz Planer is a revelation.

Brighton Rock (1947)

Brighton Rock (1947 UK) Greatest British noir is dark and chilling. A cinematic tour-de-force: from the direction and cinematography to top cast and editing. As brutal as any noir any time any country.  A cheap young psychopath playing the hoodlum boss leaves a bloody trail as he tries to cover up his murder of a ‘rat’.  Adapted by Grahame Greene from his pre-WW2 novel and brought to the screen by the talented Boulting brothers, the story has a venomous counter-point  involving a gullible young waitress who ‘knows too much’.  The picture has to contain one of the most chilling lines in all of noir when a nun  speaks of  “the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God”.

Drunken Angel (1948)

Drunken Angel (aka Yoidore tenshi) (1948 Japan) “Too many useless sacrifices” A great Kurosawa noir.  A loser doctor with soul takes on the fetid moral swamp of Yakuza degradation. The Japanese master in one of his early films has created a classic noir.  He fully comprehends the meaning of noir: from his story and a total control of his mis-en-scene he fashions a tragedy from the back alleys and stinking open sewers of urban degradation. An alcoholic slum doctor tries desperately and in all the wrong ways to cure a young consumptive Yakuza hood.  Kurosawa makes bravura use of ambient music to juxtapose and telegraph the meaning of the drama as it unfolds: from a jazz band playing St. James Infirmary Blues, to a  loudspeaker atop the “Happy” Supermarket blaring the Cuckoo Waltz in an endless loop…

Of Missing Persons (1956)

Of Missing Persons (aka Section des disparus)(1956 Argentina) Lurid adaptation of 1950 pulp novel by David Goodis. Appalling yet mesmerizingly torrid latin melodrama. Playboy husband opportunistically fakes his death to flee the clutches of his neurotic wife and fall into the ample bosom of his dancer girlfriend.

Phenix City Story (1955)

The Phenix City Story (1955) Expose confidential based on true story. Unrelenting and chilling portrayal of decent people fighting crime. One of the better 50s ‘confidentials’ based on fact. A good b-cast exudes realism in on-the-streets confrontations filmed as newsreels.  The killing of a black child is particularly brutal, and a sympathetic portrayal of blacks is noteworthy.

Scandal Sheet (1952)

Scandal Sheet (1952) Lacklustre realisation of Sam Fuller’s expose novel on yellow journalism. Broderick Crawford is strong as the bad guy, but the rest of  the cast is adequate 0nly. No tension or surprises from by-the-numbers direction.

The Second Woman (1950)

The Second Woman (1950) From producer Harry M. Popkin (DOA and Impact) A neat b-noir lensed by Hal Mohr has you guessing with a nice twist. Interesting psycho-drama starring Robert Young as a disturbed architect (or is he?) with a love angle, but the pace is a little slow and the drama labored.

The Sleeping City (1950)

The Sleeping City (1950) Sleep inducer about drug racket in NY hospital. Could have been interesting if made by talented film-makers. NY cop goes undercover as an intern in a large city hospital to investigate a murder. Richard Conte’s mind is elsewhere…

The Sound of Fury (1950)

The Sound of Fury (1950) Great noir from Cy Endfield outdoes Lang’s Fury and brilliantly prefigures Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. Climactic mob scenes mesmerise. Frank Lovejoy plays himself – an everyman down on his luck who takes to crime after hooking up with homme-fatale Lloyd Bridges, who then frames him for murder. Crazy scene of a lynch mob trying to storm a jail full of rioting in-mates is a must-see tour-de-force.

They Drive By Night (1938)

They Drive by Night (1938 UK) On-the-run ex-con tries to beat a murder rap on dark London streets and long-haul lorries. Abrupt ending though. Quaint English who-dun-it with noir atmospherics and a  loopy camp villain. Not to be confused with the US-made Bogart vehicle.

The Unsuspected (1947)

The Unsuspected (1947) Camp noir! Curtiz directs, Woody Bredell lenses, Waxman scores, Claude Rains over-acts, and Audrey Totter is a hoot! Radio-host of a radio true murders program investigate his own crime!  Predictable but fun. Checkout the vinyl…

Voici le temps des assassins... (1956)

Voici le temps des assassin (1956 France) A young twisted femme-fatale and  her off-the-wall mere try to destroy aged Paris restaurateur. Climax a bitch. Jean Gabin is a master-chef and and all-round good guy, seduced by the daughter of his ex-wife. This dame is a text-book psychopath. Lies and more lies and layer upon layer of  cruel  manipulation.  A dark hysteria pervades and look out for the young woman whipped by the dominatrix mother-in-law swathed in mourning!

The Web (1947)

The Web (1947) Entertaining thriller with dumb lawyer framed for murder. Snappy patter from solid leads, but about as noir as an albino cat. Hapless lawyer moonlights as bodyguard for a corporate type, and gets into trouble. An ensemble cast serve up a fizzy martini: Ella Raines, Edmond O’Brien, William Bendix, and Vincent Price.  Guess who plays who!

Where  the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Preminger’s elegant direction and La Shelles’ crisp noir lensing are aloof.  Dan Andrews in the lead is wooden. Andrews is a cop on a short fuse, who accidentally kills a suspect, and covers it up, then falls for the daughter of the cab-drover charged with the killing. Over-rated and it has all been said before.  Gene Tierney as always is engaging as the love interest.

Woman on the Beach (1947)

The Woman On the Beach (1947) Intriguing cerebral noir melodrama from Jean Renoir… what’s left of it after hacking by RKO suits. A moody ‘art-house’ noir where a love triangle suffused with suppressed rage, anger, and eroticism is played out in an isolated beach-side setting. Top cast make it interesting: Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan, and Charles Bickford.

World for Ransom (1954)

World For Ransom (1954) Dan Duryea a good guy! Robert Aldrich takes a boys own script and fashions a noir take on love, loyalty and illusion. Set in Singapore with a shootout finale in the jungles of Malaya.  Story while solid does not support the heavy psychological sub-text.


17 thoughts on “Summary Noir Reviews: Drunken Angel on River Street Rocks”

  1. great post, you are the only one who can describe the soul of noir in couple of lines.

    thanks for Renoir and Duvivier, and special thanks for Kurosawa, would be great to read more about Japanese noir from you.

    and why is Where the Sidewalk Ends overrated? such urban poetry can’t be overrated. the ending sent me shivers down my spine


  2. Wow Tony, this is a fabulous round-up here. There are a few I haven’t seen, but most I have watched at least once, and it’s a distinguished lot. My absolute favorite is the U.K.’s BRIGHTON ROCK, which you go give a highly favorable and enthusiastic appraisal for, (and rightly refer to it as ‘the best British noir’) but both Kurosawa’s DRUNKEN ANGEL and the British THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (which I had the fortune of seeing last year on the big screen at the Film Forum during their Brit Noir Festival) are excellent films too, as is the one by Preminger, and your opening salvo, 99 RIVER STREET.

    If we all were shipwrecked on an island, and these were the only films available to us, I’d consider us a lucky group indeed!


  3. Great run-down of many terrific films Tony!

    I just saw 99 RIVER STREET last weekend, and ahhh… that scene where Evelyn Keyes lights up from the end of the killer’s cigarette and then holds his gaze while the smoke wafts sideways, was almost like slow motion!
    Also this flick reignited my man-crush on John Payne (who’s also memorable in THE CROOKED WAY, KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL and LARCENY).
    Apparently you can catch this on HULU if you register first.

    I was lucky to stumble into a special screening of BRIGHTON ROCK last year at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Hermione Baddeley as Ida Arnold added a terrific sort of very British, dark humor that was Hitchcockesque.

    The broken record at the end was heartbreaking and haunting.

    Lastly, THE SOUND OF FURY was a surprising little crime flick that packed a very powerful punch.
    I admit that I had no idea what was coming at the end and by the final 10 minutes was completely on the edge of my seat!
    Like in TRAPPED, Lloyd Bridges plays a pure, post-war sleaze bag.
    I admired the sequence where Frank Lovejoy is watching slick Lloyd just bowling a set in the afternoon and then getting dressed in his hotel room. All the while Lloyd is giving him the impression that he’s got the cash, the women, the clothes and is the coolest and smartest wiseguy around.
    Highly recommended!


  4. Thanks Brett! And for those links.

    Yes,Hermione Baddeley is great in Brighton Rock – her characterisation is so rich and alive!

    Lloyd Bridges has a similarly sinister role in Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1948).


  5. Wow I need to see Brighton Rock soon. It sounds like a classic! I agree with you on Where The Sidewalk Ends. Good film that doesn’t quite reach the level of the really great noirs.


  6. Wow, always enjoy reading your reviews and seeing the great stills!

    Drunken Angel is on my list, especially since, although I shouldn’t be surprised, that there is Japanese noir out there.



  7. Thanks Maurizio. Good to know someone agrees on Where The Sidewalk Ends 🙂

    Thanks Coffee Messiah. Yes there is a lot of 50s and 60s noir from Japan, much of which I haven’t yet seen.


  8. BRIGHTON ROCK, sounds so wonderful! Boy, did you draw some picture!

    By the by, you were really close about WHERE the SIDEWALK ENDS. You almost had it. lol
    Yes, thank you, it is over rated! Dana, for whom is the word wooden is overly used, IS pretty, freaken, wooden here, but then you blew it.

    As lovely as Gene Gene Tierney is and she really is stunning, there is no, more wooden actor, in the world.
    She has 2 expressions, tops. I’m sorry.

    I want to like Gene Tierney. Tony D’Ambra and if you tell me why she is better than I feel she is, I will probably believe you. hee hee

    addie B)


  9. Hey Addie. Thanks.

    I am biased when it comes to Gene Tierney;) WTSE doesn’t give her that much to do, but she always has a sincerity which is rare enough to value highly. This is what I wrote about her performance in Dassin’s Night in the City: ” Richard Widmark’s performance is frenetic and real, and the soft counterpoint of an achingly elegant turn by Gene Tierney as his girl, transubstantiate Harry’s demise into the stuff of tragedy.” Tierney in Laura has a dark sullen sexuality that is the epitome of noir:



  10. BTW, now you worried me, I Just ordered THE SLEEPING CITY. No, I always like Richard Conte.
    Actually, in HEAVEN CAN WAIT Tierney seemed more relaxed. it is the tight lipped and squinty eyes, face, that is almost constant, when the movie is a serious one, I find irritating. Now that you mention NIGHT in the CITY, you got me, she was good there. Okay, okay.
    Also in the movie with Van Heflin.
    Maybe it was just with Dana Andrews. lol
    Working with an angry drunk isn’t easy, but it would be nice to think the were friends, since they worked together a lot.

    addie B)


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