The Champ: PORT OF NEW YORK (NY)
Shot in gritty, semi-documentary style with a voiceover like a newsreel, PORT tells the story of a hijacked shipment of medical narcotics and the cops that go undercover to get it back. It’s full of wonderful actors, including HE WALKED BY NIGHT’s Scott Brady, Arthur Blake as a campy, anxious comic, Lynn Carter as a spunky burlesque dancer and of course gorgeous young Yul Brynner as the head baddie. It was Brynner’s first movie, and he sports a full head of hair (although guest speaker Lynn Carter revealed that he actually wore a toupee.) Aestheticly speaking, I tend to prefer the more stylized, less “realistic” kind of Noir and there were times when that newsy voiceover reminded me a little too much of THE CREEPING TERROR (“Bradford told the general to go to hell!”) I still found myself totally sucked into this film. It could be remade today with virtually no changes.
There were two guests, Lynn Carter and also Sherry Jackson, who played Garfield’s daughter in the second film but is better known as Andrea the sexy android on Star Trek. Both women had plenty of interesting stories to tell but I have to admit I was quite anxious to get to BREAKING POINT, which I’d never seen and was really looking forward to.
The Challenger: THE BREAKING POINT (LA)
I’ve been told more than once that this film makes Bogey and Bacall’s Hemmingway adaptation TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT look like an upbeat screwball comedy. It was shot on location in Newport Beach, certainly SoCal but not the gritty urban streets we’ve been seeing in some of the other LA contenders. John Garfield is brooding and brilliant and seems to completely disappear into the role in a way that Bogart never really did. As distinctive looking as Garfield is, he still manages to be a much more believable, flawed and human Harry Morgan. The plot, like the plot of PORT could easily be set today. A struggling charter captain is unable to make ends meet and finds himself forced to rent out his fishing boat to for other, more sinister purposes like smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants from Mexico or providing a getaway for gangsters pulling a racetrack heist. He’s planning to get out after one last run but, since this is Film Noir, he is of course, fucked. I loved this film, just like I knew I would. I thought the whole subplot with Patricia Neal was kind of tacked on and unnecessary, but I enjoyed her saucy dialog and sizzling screen presence so much that I just didn’t care.
I’m gonna give this round to LA, which makes it a tie of 2 and 2. I get a few days off now, not just Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday too this week. I’ll be back at it on Thursday for CRY OF THE CITY vs CITY OF FEAR.