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Jules Dassin
Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Hugh Marlowe, Googie Withers, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Mike Mazurski
Jo Eisinger

A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter.

Not Rated.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 8/4/2015

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholar Glenn Erickson
• British Version of the Film
• 2004 Interview with Director Jules Dassin
• 1970 Interview with Director Jules Dassin
• Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Night and the City [Blu-Ray] (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 5, 2015)

From 1942’s Nazi Agent and 1950’s Night and the City, Jules Dassin’s filmography made 11 movies. After that, however, he wouldn’t work again until 1955’s Rififi.

What led to this extended absence from the screens? The unpleasant chapter of history known as the “Hollywood Blacklist” kept Dassin from additional assignments. Accused of an affiliation with the Communist Party, Dassin even found it hard to work overseas, as US distributors wouldn’t touch films made by those on the Blacklist. Dassin eventually did create non-US flicks - Rififi was a French production – but the Blacklist clearly took a massive toll on his career.

At least Dassin completed Night and the City - sort of. Apparently the Blacklist meant Dassin couldn’t be involved in post-production, so Dassin couldn’t finish the film on his own terms.

Despite those issues, City got a strong reception and merits a look 65 years after its initial release. Set in London, American hustler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) flees an unnamed party and winds up in the apartment of dissatisfied girlfriend Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney). He tries to scam her out of money for his newest sure-to-fail “get rich quick” scheme, but she’s fed up and refuses to assist.

Mary wants Harry to settle down and abandon his sleazy ways, but he seems unable to do so. Mary’s neighbor Adam Dunn (Hugh Marlowe) clearly pines for her and offers a more stable romantic possibility, but she still longs for Harry, warts and all.

Harry happens upon yet another money-making scheme when he meets famous Greek wrestler Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko). Harry thinks he can turn this encounter into profits as a wrestling promoter. Inevitably, matters don’t go as planned, so we follow Harry’s ups and (mostly) downs.

Back when I first saw Rififi in 2001, I went into it virtually blind, as I knew next to nothing about its story. It impressed me, which meant I’d go into City with elevated expectations.

Happily, City lives up to those hopes, as it offers a deep, involving noir. While it lacks anything as stunning as Rififi’s show-stopping robbery sequence, it manages to create a strong character investigation.

Widmark’s lead performance does a lot to buoy the tale. He easily could’ve turned Harry into a one-note sleaze, but Widmark manages different shades to the role. We see Harry’s self-centered/scuzzy side, of course, but Widmark develops an appealing sense of dreaminess as well. These facets turn a potentially flat character into a rich one.

During this disc’s commentary, we hear the assertion that Harry does nothing to make him seem redeemable, but I disagree with that. While the vast majority of his actions serve for his own self-interest, I think he shows a willingness to care for others by the end. It’s not a huge step, but I think it keeps Harry from “total cad” territory.

Dassin also develops a fine sense of visuals in City. The movie uses darkness and shadows in effective ways to form an expressive experience. City never seems flashy or showy, but it delivers immersive visual imagery that gives the material more impact.

Night and the City manages to provide a consistently involving tale. If you want a film with likable, endearing characters, it won’t work for you, but I think it brings us a compelling drama.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Night and the City appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer gave us a very good reproduction of the film.

Sharpness appeared nicely tight and distinctive most of the time. A smidgen of softness occurred, though I suspect these instances came from the source photography. I didn’t think those concerns because problematic, though, as the definition was fine most of the time. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred.

Despite the film’s advanced age, source flaws were non-existent; this was a clean presentation. A good layer of grain appeared, so I didn’t suspect significant noise reduction. Contrast was strong, as the movie consistently maintained a nice silver tone. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and well-defined. Overall, this was a strong presentation.

While not in the same league as the picture, the LPCM monaural soundtrack of City also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 65-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

As we shift to the set’s extras, we begin with an audio commentary from film scholar Glenn Erickson. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the source novel and the script, the different versions of the movie, cast and crew, story/character areas and performances, locations, complications and the flick’s release/reception.

Though he touches on all those topics, Erickson mostly concentrates on story/character domains, specifically as they relate to the novel, the script and the two cuts of the movie that I’ll discuss soon. Erickson covers the various areas in a satisfying manner that teaches us a lot about the film, and we get good info about the Hollywood Blacklist and its impact. This ends up as a quality chat.

For an alternate cut of City, we find The British Version. This edition of City lasts one hour, 40 minutes and six seconds and contains a completely different score as well as other changes. Though Dassin – who wasn’t involved in the editing/scoring of either cut due to the Blacklist – prefers the shorter American version, it’s cool to see this alternate take.

For more about “The British Version”, we get a featurette called Two Versions, Two Scores. In this 23-minute, 55-second piece, film scholar Christopher Husted discusses the two cuts, with an emphasis on the different scores. He offers a good overview of the subject matter that expands on what we learn in Erickson’s commentary.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find two separate interviews with director Jules Dassin. The first comes from 2004 and lasts 17 minutes, 52 seconds. Dassin talks about the Hollywood Blacklist and how it led to his assignment to make City as well as aspects of the film’s creation. Dassin provides a nice array of thoughts about City.

From June 1970, we find a 25-minute, 26-second segment from the French TV show L’invite du dimanche. Along with host Paul Seban, Dassin chats about his career and life in a broader manner; we hear about City but unlike the 2004 piece, it doesn’t become the focus. This 1970 interview acts as a good complement to the more recent one, especially because it does more to touch on Dassin’s reaction to the Blacklist.

Finally, we get a booklet. This offers a fold-out artistic poster of Harry on one side and an essay from film critic Paul Arthur on the other. It completes the package in a positive manner.

With a seedy setting and mostly unlikable characters, Night and the City paints an intriguing tale. The movie keeps us involved as we invest in the dark circumstances. The Blu-ray boasts good picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. Film noir fans will enjoy City.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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