Rocky Mulloy, back in town after serving 5 years of a life sentence for armed robbery, hopes to clear his friend Danny Morgan who's still in prison for the same crime. It won't be easy. Even the witness who cleared Rocky thinks he's guilty; Danny's glamorous wife Nancy, living in a sleazy trailer court, seems lukewarm about getting Danny back; cynical cop Gus Cobb just wants to stir things up in hopes that the missing "hot" $100,000 will surface. Plenty of tough talk, night scenes, deceptive dames and double crosses in this typical film noir.
Dick Powell ... Rocky Mulloy
Rhonda Fleming ... Nancy Morgan
Richard Erdman ... Delong
William Conrad ... Louie Castro
Regis Toomey ... Detective Lt. Gus Cobb
Jean Porter ... Darlene LaVonne
Jay Adler ... Williams, Trailer Park Manager
Joan Banks ... Alice Fletcher
Gloria Saunders ... Cigarette Clerk
Hy Averback ... Harry, Bookie (as Hy Averbach)
Renny McEvoy ... Taxi Driver
Lou Lubin ... Hank
Good dialog and a fast-moving story make this one of the better somewhat-unknown film noirs of its day.
Dick Powell and Jay Adler wisecrack their way through this film with some humorous sarcasm. Both are a lot of fun to watch. Powell was in his prime for this kind of role. He was much more mature looking than in his earlier musical days and he fits the part of a tough detective to a tee. His dialog with the tough cop, played by Regis Toomey, also is excellent stuff.
Jean Porter provides added humor with her supporting role as the bimbo-thief date for Adler and Rhonda Fleming adds beauty. A younger William Conrad - with a dark head of hair and a mustache - also has a key role in here.
Even though it is classified as film noir, I'm not sure it belongs in that category because it doesn't feature the brooding, dark type of characters and atmosphere one usually sees in that genre. One place is does belong is in your collection, if you like classic crime stories.
Among the male stars of the noir cycle, Dick Powell was the most peevish. When Humphrey Bogart smart-talked, it was with a wry bonhomie; when Robert Mitchum did it, it was with mumbled nonchalance. But when Powell snaps back a retort, you know he's got his dander up. This drastic change from his earlier days as happy-go-lucky hoofer began with his assumption (the first) of Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet and continued in Cornered, Johnny O'Clock, To the Ends of the Earth, and The Pitfall. His prickly temper informs Robert Parrish's Cry Danger, the last true noir he would appear in before affecting a pipe and cardigans in The Bad and the Beautiful.
Carrying a grip with the weight of the world in it, Powell steps off a train in Los Angeles; he's just spent five years in prison for a robbery and murder for which he took the rap. Luckily, a war-wounded and hard-drinking Marine (Richard Erdman), with whom he was supposedly drinking when the job was pulled, surfaced to give him an alibi. But Powell has never met this old buddy before.
Nonetheless, they throw their lot together and rent an armadillo-like trailer in a run-down park, where the wife of his old partner (Rhonda Fleming) lives, too. Powell has scores to settle, beginning with big-time bookie William Conrad who, he reckons, owes him $50-grand. Conrad pays off in classic mob fashion, by giving him a tip on a fixed race. The payoff money puts the police on his tail, as its marked bills are part of the take from the old robbery. But all traces of the illegal book have vanished, so Powell can't prove his innocence. He starts stalking Conrad for revenge, even though he's dodging pot-shots in the trailer park, while the duplicity that ensnared him lies much closer to home....
Cry Danger has a number of points in its favor, chief among them the pitiless photography of Joseph Biroc (it's decidedly the low-rent side of the City of Angels). Parrish keeps hustling the story along, nonetheless slowing down enough to allow Erdman a craftily underplayed, memorable performance (the same can't be said of Fleming, who simply lacks the wherewithal to function convincingly as femme fatale). There's a high quotient of violence, too – particularly when Powell extracts a confession from Conrad through a one-sided game of Russian Roulette. Somehow, though, the ingenuity of the earlier part of the picture starts to peter out near the end, turning its oddly low-key ending into something of an afterthought.
Excellent location filming, combined with a compelling script and great acting - a definite must-see for "film noir" fans. My only complaint is the somewhat stale performance by Rhonda Fleming - I think they needed somebody a bit more "earthy" for the part. Richard Erdman and Jean Porter are excellent in their supporting roles.
It was rare in 1951, to see so many actual locations in a film, but this is obviously a low-budget enterprise. Plus, the nature of "noir" is almost always to utilize reality, as opposed to artifice. I did notice some sloppiness with the usage of studio sets; the interiors of the trailers were, of course, sets, and many times when characters exit, the blank studio wall is clearly visible.
One goof occurs when Powell's character drops off Fleming at her office. As the car drives away, the cameraman is clearly visible in the window's reflection. Of course, who knew then that a viewer would eventually be able to freeze-frame a shot?
* In an interview with Tom Weaver, Jean Porter said the film was "directed by Dick Powell, and he wasn't given director credit. Dick gave Robert Parrish the director's credit, but Dick did all the directing."