Night & the City (The Criterion Collection)
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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 HortonSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The cinematography in this film is classic film noir. The film exposes a depressing beauty of the seedy underbelly of London in glorious black and white. Dassin's direction is creative and subtle, as he unravels at a careful pace the angst, frustration, and inevitable descent of the Widmark character, soaking up and igniting the atmospheric quality of the film that makes it such a great film noir.
This film is totally dominated by Richard Widmark. His performance is absolutely unforgettable. The rest of the cast are competent, but are overshadowed by Widmark and his performance. However, special kudos should go to the performance of Stanislaus Zbyszko, who portrays a retired wrestler making a comeback as a decent and sensitive individual who becomes a loyal friend to the Widmark character.
This is probably Dassin's best film in my opinion. A film that at times may be depressing and uncomfortable to watch, but at the same time easily recognizable as one of the best film noirs ever made.
Widmark at his best in this interesting tale of blind ambition, self-deception, broken dreams, and how a man who always thinks he's ahead of the game ends up tripping himself very badly - dark brooding noir.
Under the production staff of:
Jules Dassin [Director]
Jo Eisinger [Screenwriter]
Gerald Kersh [Novel]
Samuel G. Engel [Producer]
Benjamin Frankel [Original Film Score - British version]
Franz Waxman [Original Film Score - American version]
Max Greene [Cinematographer]
Nick De Maggio [Film Editor]
Sidney Stone [Film Editor]
1. Jules Dassin [Director]
Date of Birth: 18 December 1911 - Middletown, Connecticut
Date of Death: 31 March 2008 - Athens, Greece
2. Richard Widmark
Date of Birth: 26 December 1914 - Sunrise Township, Minnesota
Date of Death: 24 March 2008 - Roxbury, Connecticut
3. Gene Tierney
Date of Birth: 19 November 1920 - Brooklyn, New York
Date of Death: 6 November 1991 - Houston, Texas
the cast includes:
Richard Widmark ... [Harry Fabian]
Gene Tierney ... [Mary Bristol]
Googie Withers ... [Helen Nosseross]
Hugh Marlowe ... [Adam Dunn]
Francis L. Sullivan ...Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Night and the City" takes place among the hustlers, club owners, and purveyors of evening entertainment in London. Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) works as a club tout for The Silver Fox nightclub, targeting monied guests at local hot spots, cozying up to them with tall tales, and sending them over to the club for a good time. But Harry's always got scheme to get rich, as opposed to a plan of how to make a living, much to his girlfriend Mary's (Gene Tierney) chagrin. Harry's "highly inflamed imagination, coupled by delusions of grandeur" -as his employer bluntly remarks- never get him anywhere but into debt. One night Harry overhears a conversation between a old Greco-Roman wrestling champion, Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko), and his son Kristo (Herbert Lom), the promoter for all London's wrestling matches. Harry sees the opportunity to exploit the elder man's distaste for the new flamboyant style of wrestling to set himself up as a promoter of old-style Greco-Roman wrestling. Gregorius agrees to work with him, and, although Kristo has a monopoly on wrestling in London, he is forced to allow Harry to proceed. But Harry must raise the cash to promote his first match. His employer, Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) agrees to put up half of the money if Harry can match it. Harry can only do that by taking money from Nosseross' scheming wife, Helen (Googie Withers), in exchange for illegally obtaining a nightclub license for her. But Phil actually wants Harry ruined and cooperates with Kristo to see that he doesn't succeed.
The plot is convoluted. Harry goes through so many contortions to make himself into a wrestling promoter, it's a wonder he can keep his own scheme straight. Richard Widmark plays Harry beautifully. He's a loser and a heel, but he's surrounded by more predatory creatures than himself. Harry is so self-absorbed that he's blind to the vengeance he has inspired -and, of course, to the very patient woman who loves him. "All my life I've been running," he says. And that's what Harry does for all of this film, figuratively and literally. Other notable performances are Francis L. Sullivan as Phil, a thoroughly greedy man who is not so foolish as Harry, and Stanislaus Zbyszko as the naive but imposing Gregorius. Zbyszko is not a professional actor. He was a wrestling champion and international celebrity in his younger years -and I understand a very cultured man.
Max Greene's cinematography is classic film noir. Most of "Night and the City" takes place at night. It was filmed on location in London's dark, wet streets, which lend themselves perfectly to high contrast lighting and deep focus. I don't think I've ever seen as much close-up wide-angle photography as in this film. Greene brazenly distorts his characters, to a more noticeable extent than in most film noir. "Night and the City" is in some ways an oddity of the film noir style, because it takes place in Europe, was scripted and filmed by Americans, based on a British novel, with a mixed cast whose nationalities are never explained. It's filmed in an American style, but it's not an American film. On the other hand, "Night and the City"'s obsessed, irredeemable characters, cynicism, and visual style are exemplary of film noir. The great performances and noir cinematography are a joy to watch.
The DVD (Criterion Collection 2005 release): This is a very nice package of bonus features, starting with an audio commentary by film scholar Glenn Erikson, who wrote the essay "Expressionist Doom in Night and the City" for the first Film Noir Reader book. In this informative and interesting commentary, Mr. Erikson gives nearly a scene-by-scene analysis of the film in which he discusses and compares 4 versions of the story: the novel, the shooting script, the American Film, and the English film, in terms of story, characters, and history. Other bonus features include a "Jules Dessin Interview" (17 minutes) in which the director talks about casting, shooting the final sequence with 6 cameras, making the movie without having read the book, and being blacklisted in Hollywood. "2 Versions, 2 Scores" (23 minutes) is a documentary knowledgeably narrated by Christopher Husted that compares the film scores of Franz Waxman (American version) and Benjamin Frankel (English version), as well as the two different edits of the film. (Both scores are available on a double CD from [...]) There is a 1972 "Ciné-Parade Interview" (25 minutes) with the director in which Dessin talks to a very curious French interviewer about his difficulties working under the studio system in Hollywood and being blacklisted in the early 1950s. The interview is in French with English subtitles. There is a theatrical trailer for "Night and the City" (2 minutes). Subtitles are available for the film in English, via your remote control "subtitle" button, but I couldn't find a "set-up" or "languages" menu.
There is an audio commentary by none other than the DVD Savant himself, Glenn Erickson, author of The Film Noir essay on Night and the City. Erickson touches upon the film's troubled production history and references the book, the film's script and both versions, including cut scenes. This is a very knowledgeable track as Erickson covers many aspects of the movie.
In the "Jules Dassin Interview," he talks about how the Hollywood blacklisting made his life difficult. The veteran director tells some fascinating anecdotes in this substantial extra.
"2 Versions, 2 Scores" examines the musical score for the British version by Benjamin Frankel and the American one by Franz Waxman. Waxman's score is more dynamic while Frankel's is not as melodramatic.
"Cine-Parade Interview" is a 1972 French interview with Dassin who talks about his life and career, including an amusing anecdote about shooting a scene with Joan Crawford.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
Set in London, this film noir from 1950 is a requiem for a bubbling, manic, con man by the name of Harry Fabian played by Richard Widmark. Fabian is literally an "artist without an art" according to Hugh Marlowe playing neighbor Adam Dunn. Fabian is seeking "a life of ease and plenty". Within his frame of reference, the methods which Fabian utilizes are the cause of his demise from a wanna-be with high hopes to a chalk-outline.
WHAT I THINK ABOUT "THE NIGHT AND THE CITY":
This is a well-acted and concisely-plotted drama, maybe even a tragedy, but it is dark in every way. Most of the scenes are at night and the characters with few exceptions are dark, seedy, lowlifes with motivations and lifestyles to match. The film depicts a London at its worst, populated with its worst citizens, or so it seems, sort of the opposite setting and characters as "Laura" which also starred Gene Tierney.
ABOUT GENE TIERNEY:
Gene Tierney's role was little more than an afterthought at the studio's request, which we discover in the interview with the Director Jules Dassin on the DVD. Her character really needed to be better integrated into the plot.
Enough praise can't be given to Widmark who played Fabian for his over-the-top depiction of a grifter bringing down the house -- on his own head!
ABOUT THE CAST & PRODUCTION TEAM:
Richard Widmark - Harry Fabian [NO telescope needed to see this Comet's last flight]
Gene Tierney - Mary Bristol [underutilized in every way]
Googie Withers - Helen Nosseross [the "B" word comes to mind!]
Hugh Marlowe - Adam Dunn [nice guys do finish last]
Francis L. Sullivan - Phil Nosseross [plays a large, scary, bad dude!]
Herbert Lom - Kristo [signs for Fabian's epitaph]
Stanislaus Zbyszko - Gregorius [won his last fight, remains undefeated, may he R.I.P.]
Mike Mazurki - Strangler [still learning to tie his own shoelaces]
Jules Dassin - Director [last film before black-listing]
Samuel G. Engel - Producer
Joe Eisinger - Screenwriter
Gerald Kersh - Book Author
Mutz Greenbaum - Cinematographer
Franz Waxman - Composer (Music Score)
ABOUT THE DVD:
This is a "Criterion" DVD so it is a great transfer of a clean print. However, it is quite expensive and this 1-disk release has far fewer features than most Criterion releases.
Available Subtitles: English; Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Audio commentary by film scholar Glenn Erickson
Video interview with director Jules Dassin
Excerpts from a 1972 French interview with Dassin
Two Versions, Two Scores, a look at two different scores composed for the British and American releases of the film
New essay by film critic Paul Arthur
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