Night and the City is a brilliant film noir by Jules Dassin. The story is suffocating as we witness the impending doom of the anti-hero, played by Richard Widmark, in what has to be one of the greatest performances of his career. Yet, even though we experience discomfort in witnessing this impending doom, we are nevertheless compelled to watch in fascination as the story evolves.
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.
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The Criterion Collection presents "NIGHT AND THE CITY" (1950) (96 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is a London hustler with ambitious plans that never work out --- One day, when he encounters the most famous Greco-Roman wrestler in the world, Gregorius, at a London wrestling arena run by his son Kristo, he dreams up a scheme that he thinks will finally be his ticket to financial independence --- As Fabian attempts to con everyone around him to get his scheme to work, he of course only ends up conning himself.
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]
BIOS: 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 ›
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This very good and very influential film noir has been issued by Criterion in a remastered edition which well conveys the stark, expressionistic, brooding black and white cinematography. It stars Richard Widmark, in what many consider his best role, as a small-time hustler in London who, in trying to become a big shot in the underworld, weaves a destructive and ironic web around himself like a character in a Greek tragedy by trying to take over London's wrestling promotions. The acting in all supporting roles ranges from good to excellent, but the real star of the film is the London itself -- a bleak, grimy, angular underworld which is the opposite of the elegant or quaint London featured in so many films. Some critics have compared it to the landscape of bombed out Vienna in The Third Man, another expressionistic noir film about an American trapping himself in the decadence of a destroyed Europe. Night and the City also features what is probably the most gripping wrestling match ever put on film. Both great entertainment and a key film in the history of the noir genre, this can be recommended to everyone. Advisories: none in particular, though there are some adult situations. [Note: I have no idea why amazon Canada currently lists this DVD at a price three times greater than the US amazon does, for what is as far as I can tell the same identical product.]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
A delicious slice of classic film noir!Dec 18 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
This has always been one of my favorite Richard Widmark films, and it's also one of the most underated film noirs of all time. Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a hopeless hustler and conman in London who dreams of making it big. Gene Tierney plays his girlfriend, who also falls prey to Fabian's schemes and tricks. Fabian comes up with a plan to become a "bigshot": be a promoter in the wrestling world, and arrange for one of the biggest matches in London's history. The problem is that he has to meet the approval of the leader of London's underworld, and that's where his plans fall apart. The suckers who supported Fabian soon realize their error, and the mob comes looking for Fabian with a vengeance, in one of the most memorable chases in film noir history. Fabian has no one left to turn to, except his helpless girlfriend, but even she can do nothing to save him. The ending is one of the best (in my opinion) of all film noirs. Even though Widmark's character is totally unlikable, I consider this one of his finest performances. Gene Tierney is also great, but she gets far too little screen time. I've waited years for this classic to be released on dvd, and finally my wish has been answered! If you're even remotely interested in classic film noir, this dvd is a definite must-have!
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
RUN HARRY RUN....Feb. 3 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) always seems to be running. From thugs, backfired schemes, rip-offs, etc. In London, he hits upon a surefire get-rich-quick scheme: to promote a one-time famous wrestler, Gregorius (Stanilaus Zbyszko), in direct opposition to the current wrestling kingpin Kristo (a young Herbert Lom), Greogorius' son. But, as always, money is the problem. He finds backing from an oily night club owner's wife (Googie Withers) who has big plans of her own. But the night club owner Nosserus (Francis L.Sullivan) is on to Fabian's scheme and the double-cross has disastrous results as Fabian tries to keep the gig going at all costs. Jules Dassin created a small masterpiece with this 1950 film noir and Criterion has done it justice on the disc with fine extras and a good print. The film boasts an excellent British/American cast and a great score by Franz Waxman. Widmark is dynamic as Fabian and Gene Tierney is good as Mary, his long suffering girlfriend who works in Nosserus' club, The Silver Fox. But the best female role is Withers as Helen, who reveals a ruthlessness that surpasses even Fabian's wild schemes. "Night and the City" pulls no punches in showing what happens to some people who stop at nothing to get what they want at the expense of others...and how big dreams can turn into nightmares. Highly recommended.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
American/British Hybrid with Wonderful Noir Style.March 26 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
"Night and the City" was director Jules Dessin's last film before falling victim to the Hollywood Blacklist for 5 years. Shot in London and based on the novel by Gerald Kersh, it's a film noir great, but not strictly an American film. Screenwriter Jo Eisinger radically altered Kersh's novel. And there are two versions of the film: one exclusively for English consumption and this American version, into which director Jules Dessin had more input and which was also released to international markets. The English version is longer and features an entirely different score. But this is the shorter, tighter, more cynical American version of "Night and the City".
"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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Film Noir - London-style!Feb. 10 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
After being blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy-era witch hunts, director Jules Dassin moved to London and made the classic film noir, Night and the City for 20th Century Fox. He presents a shadowy underworld where life is cheap and money is king. Its inhabitants consist of drunks, thieves and other desperate people scrambling to eke out some kind of existence.
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
best of the bestAug. 14 2006
Carlos Vazquez Quintana
- Published on Amazon.com
For me, this movie I saw first time perhaps 40 years ago is superb and simply the best I have seen.
We see, this is mainly the story of Harry Fabian, a cheap swindler from London, played superbly by Richard Widmark. But is also the tale of how Gregorius, a man perhaps simple and ingenuous, but essentially good can change dirt in sport, in life and destroy evil no matter the cost. The problem with Harry is he wants to become someone important in life, but although smart, he hasn't category enough for that. Harry is immersed in a world of lies and small tricks to survive precariously from a day to another. He flirts for interests bordering adultery and has a girlfriend he also has finally to treason. Truly, Harry does work much, but mostly wrong, and as man and even as a full criminal he falls short. His activities are varied, but centred mostly in the world of betting in arranged tricky Greco - Roman fight. The problem is one night the wrestling show is seen and recognized as trash by Gregorius, the retired true champion. This most affectionate personage becomes another victim deceived by Harry to enter in a fraudulent business of fight, but as a true sportsman, his right behaviour has to cost Harry a final terrible price, because he's the father of Kristo, now a cruel gangster played by Herbert Lom which dominates these subworld of crime and fraud. There's effectively a mediocre wrestler who in his stupidity thinks he's a champion. Circumstances complicate and a true fight explodes between him and Gregorius who wins, but dies. Kristo, knowing Harry is responsible, offer a high price to kill him to all criminal world of London. I still are affected in the scene when the Gregorius dies without any fear, after have living a clean, full life. He has to destroy lies and dirt at less for a time. Superb film, superb play, nothing in common with the disappointing modern version.