Gangs of the Waterfront (1945)

gangs_2Starring Robert Armstrong, Stephanie Bachelor, Martin Kosleck, Marion Martin, William Forrest, Wilton Graff, Eddie Hall, Jack O’Shea, Davison Clark, Dick Elliott

Directed by George Blair

Expectations: Moderate.

onehalfstar


Gangs of the Waterfront isn’t so much a sequel to Gangs of New York as it is a follow-up, and by “follow-up” I mean a film that just uses the same premise to build a movie on. So if you enjoy the type of movie where a gangster is impersonated by someone who happens to look exactly like him, then these two movies are nothing but sweet bread and butter. If, on the other hand, you’re me and you just watched Gangs of New York not too long ago (and weren’t too thrilled with it), Gangs of the Waterfront is going to hit you in roughly the same way.

This is going to seem obvious, but honestly the main difference between the films is that these gang members are the ones running the waterfront. It’d be hard to know this if you missed the film’s title, though, as outside of a few foggy waterfront warehouses, most of the film takes place in apartment buildings and offices. Gangs of the Waterfront is a low-budget film, without even the benefit of stock footage to sell itself, so instead of wasting money on waterfront sets, the producers apparently decided to combat this problem by having an incessant foghorn blaring over probably 75% of the movie, no matter what the location is. It’s so annoying! And it also had the side effect of lulling me into a light sleep at times.

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Park Row (1952)

Starring Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs, Herbert Heyes, Tina Pine, George O’Hanlon, J.M. Kerrigan, Forrest Taylor, Don Orlando, Neyle Morrow, Dick Elliott, Stuart Randall, Dee Pollock, Hal K. Dawson

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Extremely high. I’ve built this one up in my mind to be one of the greatest and most anticipated films I haven’t seen yet.


In Sam Fuller’s awesome auto-biography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking, he relates the story of how he tried to sell Daryl Zanuck on the idea of making Park Row (Fuller was contracted with Zanuck at the time with a multi-picture deal). Zanuck always shot it down, and in the final plea, Zanuck suggested that it would be a better movie as a big CinemaScope musical. Sam Fuller wanted the film to reflect the reality of the newspaper industry and singing newsman doesn’t really fit that bill. Fuller then states, “I decided that the only way to make Park Row was to put up my own dough and produce it myself. Two hundred grand, to be exact. To hell with Zanuck and Fox! Fuck the entire studio system! My film was going to be a gift to American journalism.” This shows just how personal and important the film was to him, and boy does it ever show in the finished product.

Park Row is set in the 1880s on the titular street that the newspapers of New York call home. Our lead is the hard-nosed newsman Phineas Mitchell played by Gene Evans, truly one of the greatest unsung actors of his generation. At the outset of the film he is employed by The Star, the oldest paper in New York and run by Charity Hackett (Mary Welch). She inherited the job and therefore doesn’t know or care to know about true journalistic integrity. Fueled by the recent hanging of a man, Evans uses the power of words to start a shitstorm with Hackett. This gets him fired but it leads to the greatest opportunity of his career, starting up his own paper, The Globe.

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