Cry Danger (1951)

Written by John Chard on October 14, 2017

Weeping Wit.

Cry Danger is directed by Robert Parish and written by William Bowers from a story by Jerome Cady. It stars Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Erdman, Regis Toomey and William Conrad. Music is by Paul Dunlap and Emil Newman and cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc.

It often makes for most interesting conversation in film fan circles, that of film noir, what constitutes it? what does each viewer demand? what is your favourite strand to this most desirable style of film making? Rarely does a group of noir heads agree wholesale, which of course only further strengthens the argument on why many love it so. I raise this as a point of opening reference because the first review of Cry Danger that I happened upon questioned its noir worth! Madness I tell you...

Plot is on the surface simplicity, Rocky Mulloy (Powell) is a man wrongly imprisoned for five years and he's now out and now out to nail the real perpetrator of the crime. Cops are interested in his whereabouts, as they are the missing money from the crime he was locked up for. So far so standard crime revenger then? Not so for we are in noirville, in a less affluent part of Los Angeles, where the tale is spun out from the center point of a trailer park. Here we find Mulloy armed with calmness, toughness and always a dry quip on the lips. He's accompanied by Delong (Erdman), a crippled alcoholic army veteran, himself full of witticisms as he takes his alcoholism in a resigned stride. The cops are led by Detectice Lt. Gus Cobb (Toomey), a wise head, grizzled and not shy of razor sharp dialogue himself. And the babe of the piece, Nancy Morgan (Fleming), she's an ex of Mulloy, but husband of Mulloy's pal, a man who himself is rotting in prison for the crime at the core of this all. Add in creepy mustachioed villain Louie Castro (Conrad) and a weasel ukulele playing trailer park manager (Jay Adler), and you get a noir stew ripe for sampling.

As the dialogue pings about the story with waspish glee, the narrative holds tight via strong thematically noir traits such as greed and betrayal, with the added bonus of an ending worthy of the noir name. Production wise it's a job well done, the moderate budget not a worry, in fact it's only come the end of the show you realise you just had a pic running at 80 minutes that was without padding and pointless filler. All scenes are relevant here, and such is the sharpness of this character driven piece, you need to hang on every word and character interactions and reactions. In an ideal world there would be a ream of chiaroscuro to aid the mood, but Biroc and Parrish show skills to compliment a number of scenes via lighting and useful back and foreground locations. Cast are on top form, led by a superbly laconic Powell (sarcasm in a suit), to which this rounds out as one for noir lovers to put on their to see lists. 8/10