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The Street with No Name (Fox Film Noir)

Mark Stevens , Richard Widmark , William Keighley    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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"What's the use of having a war if you don't learn from it?" The speaker is Alec Stiles (Richard Widmark), a menthol-sniffing asthmatic in a snap-brim hat who's nailed down the organized-crime franchise for a burg named Center City, and who runs it "scientifically," using methods he picked up in uniform during WWII. He can even tap into the databanks of the FBI. Which, by coincidence, is gearing up to bring his mini-crime wave to an end. Street with No Name invites us to sit back and watch both sides deploy their methodologies at each other.

The semidocumentary crimefighting/spybusting thrillers of the late '40s are fascinating for their blend of institutionalized rectitude (the FBI is totally trustworthy and awesomely competent), authentic locations ("filmed where it happened"), and noir poetics. Once Inspector George Briggs (Lloyd Nolan repeating his House on 92nd Street role) sends agent Gene Cordell (Mark Stevens) to work undercover on Center City's skid row, the movie has settled into an evocative meditation on the underside of Middle American town life c. 1948: the never-empty arcades and diners; a seedy drifters' hotel you can almost smell; cars parked slantwise along a commercial street that retains a memory of countryside; and an upstairs gym--Stiles's place--where even in daytime a surprising number of men congregate in hopes of seeing someone take a beating. And there's one sequence of skulking in a ferry terminal, so beautifully observed by director William Keighley and ace cinematographer Joe MacDonald, you'll wish you could shake their hands. Harry Kleiner's screenplay was reworked seven years later for Samuel Fuller's House of Bamboo. --Richard T. Jameson

Product Description

In one of his most chilling performances, Richard Widmark stars as Stiles, an up and coming crime boss trying to stake his claim in the criminal underworld. The FBI files are filled with many lurid crime stories. One case in particular baffles FBI Inspector Briggs (Loyed Nolan). In involves the murders of a house wife and a bank guard. Both were killed by the same gun, yet there isn't any connection between the victims. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime, Briggs sends his best agent undercover to penetrate the inner circle of the notorious Stiles gang. Everything goes according to plan, until an informant inside the police department tips off Stiles. Now the enraged crime boss targets the agent for murder.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Noir Classic May 3 2000
Format:VHS Tape
There have been many films that have attempted to dramatize gangsterism and its existence within urban America. Works such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time In America, and Angels With Dirty Faces have been critically acclaimed for achieving realistic glimpses inside the realm of crime. The Street With No Name should rightfully take its place alongside the aforementioned masterpieces as a pivotal film that absorbs the viewer into a criminal landscape etched with- corruption, unconscious alienation, and violent power. Aptly titled, no actual street or city is identified by name, since the gritty texture of this film implies that any of the growing metropolises that dot America can claim "Center City" as its home. Pool halls, seedy motels, late night arcades, and dank diners blend into an atmospheric montage of criminal haze. Interior shots are brilliantly framed in noir style lighting. Rooms themselves seem sinister as tables, chairs, windows, and walls, become parts to an ignominious whole. Director William Keighley taking a cue from the documentary style success of House on 92nd Street (best screenplay 1945) incorporates a similar narrative touch. As in House on 92nd Street, J Edgar Hoover allows Keighley full access to film scenes at FBI headquarters and at the Bureau's training center. The scenes are authenticated by actual FBI personnel operating the latest equipment used in criminal investigations. The dialogue and acting is sharp. Martin Scorcese would be impressed with the seemingly off the cuff lines and mannerisms that the racketeering characters demonstrate. Mark Stevens is believable as the undercover FBI agent who penetrates the inner circle of an organized street gang. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Run of the mill period FBI drama Aug. 8 2013
By Big Bill TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
They did a number of movies showcasing the mightyness of the FBI during this period. This one has a voice over narrator
where none is needed , but it was the style at the time . The opening info tells you that many scenes are shot at actual FBI
crime scenes/offices, and that many of the extras are actual FBI employees , again , a big deal at the time. It is included in the Fox Film Noir lineup , but it
is simply a crime drama , and just because it is in glorious Black & White does not make it film noir. Average , of interest only to
fans of the period/genre or fans of the Stars involved.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish noir classic May 18 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Perhaps the best of the semi-documentary FBI tales that 20th Century Fox cranked out in the late 40s and early 50s (e.g. "The House on 92nd Street,"). A very stylish, moodily photographed, frequently unheralded noir classic in which federal agent Mark Stevens infiltrates the gang of crime boss Richard Widmark. Widmark, in the follow-up to his star making portrayal of psychotic Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death," is superb: as cold and calculating as Udo was hot-tempered and impulsive, but every bit as deadly.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
84 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Noir Classic May 3 2000
By Vincent Tesi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
There have been many films that have attempted to dramatize gangsterism and its existence within urban America. Works such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time In America, and Angels With Dirty Faces have been critically acclaimed for achieving realistic glimpses inside the realm of crime. The Street With No Name should rightfully take its place alongside the aforementioned masterpieces as a pivotal film that absorbs the viewer into a criminal landscape etched with- corruption, unconscious alienation, and violent power. Aptly titled, no actual street or city is identified by name, since the gritty texture of this film implies that any of the growing metropolises that dot America can claim "Center City" as its home. Pool halls, seedy motels, late night arcades, and dank diners blend into an atmospheric montage of criminal haze. Interior shots are brilliantly framed in noir style lighting. Rooms themselves seem sinister as tables, chairs, windows, and walls, become parts to an ignominious whole. Director William Keighley taking a cue from the documentary style success of House on 92nd Street (best screenplay 1945) incorporates a similar narrative touch. As in House on 92nd Street, J Edgar Hoover allows Keighley full access to film scenes at FBI headquarters and at the Bureau's training center. The scenes are authenticated by actual FBI personnel operating the latest equipment used in criminal investigations. The dialogue and acting is sharp. Martin Scorcese would be impressed with the seemingly off the cuff lines and mannerisms that the racketeering characters demonstrate. Mark Stevens is believable as the undercover FBI agent who penetrates the inner circle of an organized street gang. Lloyd Nolan is again cast as the straitlaced FBI inspector who symbolizes Hoover's insistence on vigilance and patriotism. But it is Richard Widmark who steals this picture with a riveting performance as a paranoid gang leader with a vindictive mean streak. Critics claim that Widmark's screen debut as gangster Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947) was his most memorable performance but I disagree. Even though Widmark was nominated for an Oscar in Kiss of Death, his performance is marked by scripted toughness. When watching Widmark's Udo character today he seems unconvincing and severly concocted. In The Street With No Name, Widmark's character Alec Stiles is notoriously genuine. Stile's dress, talk, mannerisms, and insecurities are subtle and readily acceptable as part of a gangster's profile. Cagney, Raft, and Bogart may have garnered the eternal gangster spotlight, but Widmark's hood Alec Stiles stands as the most memorable.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dynamite Noir Sept. 4 2005
By David Baldwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This flick clicks on all cylinders. This is quintessential film noir. Director William Keighley employs two styles here. For the FBI procedural aspects of the film he employs a "Dragnet" style narrative. When dealing with the underworld element the ominous light and shadow noir approach is used. The marriage of these styles is utilized perfectly here. Richard Widmark adds another memorable character to his rogues gallery as crime boss Alex Stiles. Veterans Lloyd Nolan and John McIntire give good performances as an FBI field director and FBI undercover operative, respectively. Film was remade later as "House of Bamboo". The interesting thing about that film is all the basic elements from this film are present yet it pales in virtually every aspect to the original. "House of Bamboo" fails because it is a film almost bereft of style but see it if you must for comparison purposes.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "There's just one idea man in this outfit...me." May 4 2006
By cookieman108 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Apparently after WWII, there was an alarming increase in `gangsterism', a term which I wasn't familiar with until I watched the film The Street with No Name (1948). Surprisingly (to me, at least) it is an actual word (according to my online dictionary), so if you're playing Scrabble and you have the right combination of letters, throw it down and earn yourself some beaucoup points...written by Harry Kleiner (Fallen Angel, The Violent Men, House of Bamboo) and directed by William Keighley ('G' Men, Bullets or Ballots, The Adventures of Robin Hood), the film stars Mark Stevens (Objective, Burma!, The Dark Corner) and Richard Widmark (Panic in the Streets, Pickup on South Street) in his second feature, following his memorable performance as the tough mug Tommy Udo in the Victor Mature vehicle Kiss of Death (1947). Also appearing is Lloyd Nolan (The House on 92nd Street), Barbara Lawrence (Oklahoma!), Ed Begley (12 Angry Men), John McIntire (Call Northside 777, Turner & Hooch), and Donald Buka (Stolen Identity), as the tough guy character Shivvy (in case it wasn't apparent by his name, he's handy with a blade, or `shiv' in gangsterism lingo). An interesting fact, `Shivvy' was also an original name for one of the original seven dwarfs, but was changed as test audiences didn't respond well to a knife wielding dwarf...go figure.

As the film begins we learn through a message hot off the wire from J. Edgar Hoover himself that gangsterism is running rampant, and if things stay the course, three out of every four Americans will, at some point, become victims of organized criminal activity. That's hardly news to the residents of Center City, as gangs have been pulling of some bold capers, resulting in a few deaths. In an effort to stem the tide of the unlawful, Special Agent Eugene Cordell is recruited straight from the academy, and given the phony baloney identity of George Manly, certainly a moniker one could hang one's hat on, with the intent he infiltrate the local underworld, gather information, and bring about some arrests...seems George has an extensive criminal record, one with surprisingly little or no convictions, and therefore is a likely candidate to join one of the larger gangs in the area (also the one responsible for a lot of the recent villainous activity), an organization lead by Alec Stiles (Widmark), a savvy, intelligent gangster with some influential friends. George, now a member of the gang, begins passing along information about the gang's plans, but Stiles and his lackeys elude capture due to a tip off from an informant within the local police department, one which Stiles uses to help ferret out the mole he believes planted within his own group. Seems Georgie's days are numbered as Stiles has come up with a unique plan to get rid of him, without getting any blood on his hands...

There are a lot of things to like about this film including the solid (and slightly predictable) writing, the extremely capable directing, but I particularly liked the performances. I thought Mark Stevens did very well in the lead, as he seemed a very personable type and was able to pull off the good guy pretending to be a bad guy very well, but I think he got upstaged by Richard Widmark, who would eventually show he could play both the antagonist and protagonist equally as well (if you get a chance, check out 1950's Panic in the Streets, where Widmark plays the hero part). I should mention Widmark has always been one of my favorite actors, so perhaps I'm a little biased, and generally the bad guys are more interesting than the good guys in features like these, but I think Widmark brought a lot to the part. The writing fleshed his character out pretty well, which was complimented by Widmark turning Stiles from just your run of the mill alpha thug into an intelligent, albeit sadistic, character working any number of angles in order to solidify his stranglehold on the city and stay one step ahead of law enforcement (at least the law enforcement not corrupted by the criminal element). Widmark did seemed slightly constrained here, so perhaps he was still coming into his own given this was only his second film. I particularly liked his character's screening process which he used to draw in potential recruits to his gang. I also liked how he utilized techniques normally used by law enforcement to his own ends, especially in terms of finding out who within his group was the rat. The story, which was apparently developed with the aid of the FBI (as stated in some upfront text), moves along well, and has a number of scenes relating investigational techniques used at the time, many of which are still employed today (fingerprint analysis, matching the grooves on spent bullets, etc.). This kind of information is old news to us nowadays given the popularity of the investigational police dramas scattered across the television, but I'm sure at the time the movie was released, the general public probably had little idea how law enforcement collected evidence and used it against those who would commit crime. One interesting fact I did learn while watching this feature was that back in the day, police procedure seemed to be `shoot first, shoot again, and then ask questions'. The funniest part for me involved John McIntire's character, who was the direct contact man for Cordell while he was undercover. He was holed up in a squalid, fleabag flophouse across from Cordell's squalid, fleabag flophouse, and he would use an odd and cumbersome looking shortwave getup to communicate with headquarters, one that featured some large headphones with antenna protruding from the top. All in all I thought this a solid feature with definite `noir-ish' qualities, one worth checking out if you enjoy black and white crime dramas.

The picture, presented in fullscreen aspect ratio (1.33:1), looks good, but it does have some imperfections, mainly the occasional vertical line running down the screen. It's not as bad as I've seen in other releases, but it is noticeable from time to time. The audio, available in both Dolby Digital stereo and mono, comes through clean. Special features included are an interesting and engaging commentary track featuring film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver, a theatrical trailer for the film, and trailers for other 20th Century Fox noir DVD releases like Call Northside 777 (1948), House of Bamboo (1955), Laura (1944), and Panic in the Streets (1950).

Cookieman108
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To build an organization along scientific lines! July 3 2006
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
When an innocent man is killed in a nightclub holdup in Center City suburbs, the Inspector Briggs firmly suspects about the existence of a gang zealously prepared and even disposed to take possession of the city. An undercover agent will penetrate the web thanks to his boxing abilities. Soon he will make the first contact with Alec Stiles (Richard Widmark) and so he gets to infiltrate himself in this underworld organization.

This is one of the most grimly and realistic Noir films of the late forties, zealously detailed in which semi documentary style concerns.

Widmark is simply superb. He develops a fascinating characterization as a neurotic gangster with suggested homosexual tendencies, phobia against the germs, and the remarkable inclination toward the military discipline; you may realize how he plans his villainies with astringent precision and displays the best of his skills to make of this outstanding movie at least the half of its virtues.

All of us who are beware about the trajectory of William Keighley (The G men), know about his special predilection for this genre. He was an expert around these themes and we must acknowledge him for this unusual and outstanding film.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good F.B.I. Pic March 23 2006
By Kardius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Post-war gangsterism provides a much better storyline than WWII spies in Fox's follow-up to "The House on 92nd Street." Thankfully, the reverential documentary-style sections on FBI proceedings were minimized in this movie in favor of the story concerning an FBI agent (Mark Stevens) who infiltrates a criminal gang in "Central City." Therefore, in this film you get more of the great black and white cinematography that visually characterizes the film noir genre.

Also, the cast is much better. Best of all is Richard Widmark. He provides another great portrayal of a villain right after becoming known in "Kiss of Death." Mark Stevens looks more convincing as a criminal than an agent, but he's much better here than in "The Dark Corner." (Like "Kiss of Death," the film is also on the Fox film noir DVD collection, and both are much better films than "The Street With No Name"). And, although she's only on screen for a handful of minutes, Barbara Lawrence (the only woman in the cast) makes quite an impression as Widmark's wife. She's quite a dame.

In sum, "The Street With No Name" is not the best of noirs, but the semi-documentary film is still fascinating to watch, and a significant improvement over Fox's first F.B.I. pic, "The House on 92nd Street," also available on DVD.
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