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City That Never Sleeps(1953)
Johnny Kelly, who plans on resigning from the police force and leaving his wife the next day, has a very eventful last night on duty.
For more about City That Never Sleeps and the City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray release, see City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gig Young, Mala Powers, Edward Arnold, William Talman, Chill Wills, Marie Windsor
Director: John H. Auer
» See full cast & crew
City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray Review
The night is (Gig) Young.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 23, 2013
Gig Young had a long, though ultimately rather sad, Hollywood career, one which ended abruptly in 1978 when he apparently shot his fifth wife to death and then turned the gun on himself. Like George Sanders, another Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winner who committed suicide, Young seemed to exude an air of affable boredom quite a bit of the time and of course Sanders actually stated he was bored in his suicide note. Unlike Sanders, who seemed more or less resigned to playing supporting roles, Young always dreamed of a career as an out and out leading man, a brass ring he was never able to quite grasp. Young struggled with alcoholism throughout his life, something that evidently led to his divorce from his third wife, Bewitched's Elizabeth Montgomery, and which also led to recurring problems with most of his other wives as well as his professional standing. (Young's second wife was Sophie Rosenstein, a onetime University of Washington theater professor who had mentored Frances Farmer during Farmer's college days. Farmer later got Rosenstein a coaching job at Paramount, and some of Farmer's family long accused Rosenstein of having introduced Frances to the "horrors" of Communism, which some Farmer family members felt contributed to the actress' mental problems in the 1940s. Ironically Rosenstein lasted at Paramount much longer than Farmer herself did.) Young often did best in slightly acerbic supporting roles that were kind of like Tony Randall characters with a bit of an edge. His Oscar winning performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? was a fascinating change of pace for Young, but it never really led to anything great afterwards, and in fact work became rather scarce anyway due to Young's increasing drinking problems. Young had relatively few outright starring roles in his career (something that may have added to his emotional unrest), with 1953's quasi-noir outing City That Never Sleeps one of the few examples we have of Young as a leading man. This is also one of the few films helmed by John H. Auer which has managed to stay at least a bit on film lovers' radar (Auer has just had a couple of his lesser works released on Blu-ray by Olive Films, including A Man Betrayed and Hell's Half Acre). Like most of Auer's oeuvre, City That Never Sleeps is obviously low budget fare, but unlike at least some of Auer's other outings, this film bristles with a certain dank energy that makes it one of the more interesting entries in the filmographies of both its director and its star.
Usually The Big Apple is the metropolis saddled with the "city that never sleeps" appellation, but in the case of this film, it's actually Chicago (the film was shot on location and one of the pleasures of the film is seeing The Windy City in all its early fifties glory). Young plays Chicago beat cop Johnny Kelly, a second generation policeman who finds his station in life, and his measly paycheck, not exactly to his liking. Johnny is toying with becoming a paid lackey of prominent criminal attorney (get ready for one of the all time great character names) Penrod Biddle (Edward Arnold), who has much of the city already wrapped around his pudgy finger. Biddle has big plans for Johnny, but Johnny sees the potential larger payout Biddle represents as nothing more than a stepping stone to get him out of the fetid climes of Chicago, as well as perhaps an unhappy marriage. Helping in that regard is blowsy burlesque dancer Sally (Mala Powers), who is known professionally as Angel Face.
There was a famous film and television series built around New York called Naked City, which included the equally famous narration:
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.Interestingly, City That Never Sleeps also includes narration, and it's through that narration that we are actually introduced to several stories, which of course end up rather tightly intertwined. There's Johnny, of course, and Penrod and Sally. But there's also Penrod' on the make wife (the ineffeable Marie Windsor) as well as a would be magician turned killer (Perry Mason's future district attorney William Talman) as well as at least a couple of decidedly whimsical characters, at least for a noir. One of these is a "mechanical man" who performs in the window of the club where Sally is a dancer, and the other is a mysterious policeman named Joe (Chill Wills), who just seems to materialize out of thin air to replace Johnny's missing partner on the night when the film takes place.
It's elements such as these that really set City That Never Sleeps apart from much of its B-movie noir kin. Unfortunately, these fantasy laden elements grate a bit uneasily up against the grittier realities the film wishes to portray. It's as if a hard bitten cop drama had suddenly landed in Narnia. Young may not have been the right choice for a shaded character like this, though to be fair, he has a doleful countenance that really does depict Johnny's world weariness quite well. Powers is a hoot as Sally (and/or Angel Face), and she has some of the mostówell, interesting dance moves you're like to see in a noir. It's also fun to see Wills in such an unusual role. Wills was one of those huge personalities who was typically stuffed into movies to provide a little comedy relief , but here, in a completely odd (and more or less serious) role, Wills acquits himself quite well in an understated and effective way.
Like Gig Young, John H. Auer never quite rose to the top ranks of his profession, but films like City That Never Sleeps show that he in fact (like Young) possessed considerable artistry. The film cartwheels through its interlocking stories rather breathlessly, but it's inerrantly well staged and well performed, certainly a testament to Auer's craft and influence. If you see only one John H. Auer film this year, make it City That Never Sleeps.
City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray, Video Quality
City That Never Sleeps is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer. City That Never Sleeps was lensed by iconic cinematographer John L. Russell (Psycho), and Russell's shadow draped framings pop surprisingly well throughout this high definition presentation, one which offers well above average contrast and some really deep, lustrous blacks. The elements are in excellent shape overall, with only a few minor blemishes to report. The image here is decently sharp and well defined, especially in a couple of extreme close-ups, where it pops very well indeed. As with most Olive releases, this is another "tinker free" presentation that has not been digitally scrubbed or sharpened, at least noticeably.
City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Aside from a few sporadic pops and clicks, City That Never Sleeps' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track sounds nicely spry. There's less of the boxy sound that attends many of these vintage soundtracks, and both dialogue and score have a nicely full midrange and low end. Quieter moments reveal just a hint of hiss, but it's not very noticeable over the bulk of the film. Fidelity is excellent, though dynamic range isn't especially wide.
City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
City That Never Sleeps Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
City That Never Sleeps is just downright odd at times, but that's one of the reasons it's so unforgettable. When was the last time you saw a film where a murderer has to figure out if a character is mechanical or not? This film is stuffed to the gills with unusual characters and if the more whimsical aspects of the film never quite jive with its more putatively realistic situations, the very weirdness of seeing two such disparate kinds of ideas coexisting in the same film makes for a decidedly unique viewing experience. Most of the cast here does great work. Edward Arnold is at his most imperiously slimy, William Talman is frighteningly good in a villain role, Marie Windsor isówell, Marie Windsor and Mala Powers just about walks (or sashays) away with the picture. Only Gig Young seems slightly ill at easeóstill chasing after that brass ring which was forever just slightly out of reach. City That Never Sleeps features excellent video and very good audio and comes Recommended.
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