Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jules Dassin's "Night and the City" (1950)

Jules Dassin is able to take a city, an environment, and bring it fully to life. He did it with New York in The Naked City and a prison in Brute Force. In "Night and the City" Dassin takes the dark streets of London and makes them the background for a tale of a man's attempt to rise to the top of wrestling promotion. One thing that sets this noir apart from others is its displaced location of London. Noir was typically set on the urban streets in the United States. Having a London based film in the genre adds some extra flavor to it all.

Richard Widmark is the real on screen gem of this film. He's absolutely brilliant as the ever scheming and very clever Harry Fabian, who is just trying to make a name for himself. He's a character who's desperate to move on from his low rung spot of the crime underworld. Fabian aims at the world of wrestling, and once he has secured some notoriety, runs into trouble with the big men of the game. The eventual downfall of Harry Fabian is absolutely dark and disturbing. There's self destruction abound as he finds himself getting into more than he can handle. Thanks to Widmark's remarkable portrayal of this character, it's even more entertaining to watch.

So much credit to this film working is owed to the director, Jules Dassin. Time after time he is able to bring a world alive. He creates interesting, encompassing characters that accompany each other very well. His directing skills give the film it's dark, edgy look that only further suffocates main character Harry Fabian in his troubles. It seems like there's nowhere for the poor guy to run. Dassin had it all down perfect.

Night and the City is a top notch classic film noir. It's certainly among the best films Jules Dassin made, along with The Naked City, Rififi, Brute Force, and others. This film is a must see film.


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