Two-bit hustler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) aches for a life of ease and plenty. Trailed by an inglorious history of go-nowhere schemes, he stumbles upon a chance of a lifetime in the form of legendary wrestler Gregorius the Great (Stanislaus Zbyszko). But there is no easy money in this underworld of shifting alliances, bottomless graft, and pummeled fleshand soon Fabian learns the horrible price of his ambition. Luminously shot in the streets of London, Jules Dassins Night and the City
is film noir of the first order and one of the directors crowning achievements.
Richard Widmark never had better exercise for his Cagney-like bouncing-ball energy than Night and the City
, a classic film noir about a hustler's meteoric flame-out. Although acknowledged as one of the great noir pictures, it's actually set and shot in London, which gives an exotic, displaced novelty to the usual noir universe. Widmark's performance as Harry Fabian is a jibbering, wheedling, giggling tour de force, as Harry schemes his way to setting up a wrestling match and finally establishing himself as a "somebody." Instead, he manages to irritate the underworld heavies (memorably, Herbert Lom and Francis L. Sullivan) whose fingers are already deeply into the criminal pie. Gene Tierney and Googie Withers are the women--one good, one bad--who witness Harry's descent. This was director Jules Dassin's final project for a Hollywood studio before the blacklist forced him out, and he packs the film with tortured camera angles and spidery noir shadows; the movie's a real visual clambake. Night and the City
was remade, tiredly, with Robert De Niro in 1992. Bonus: See how strongly this movie has influenced Martin Scorsese. --Robert Horton