I thought I had pretty much exhausted most of the truly great film noirs but I was very wrong. Cry of the City is one of Robert Siodmak’s many noirs and I have to plead guilty to skipping most of them in my noir buying except of course his adaptation of The Killers. This silly oversight will be remedied in the near future. BFI’s long-awaited Blu-Ray release comes after a nationwide theatrical release last year and it was also part of a retrospective of Siodmak’s work at BFI.
Cry of the City over the years have kind of got lost in the shuffle of the great noirs. This could be down to a lot of factors despite Richard Conte being a classic fixture in film noir he never had the romance of a star like Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum. The other star of Cry of the City is Victor Mature who is frankly a pretty terrible actor in almost everything but had a small period from 46 to 48 he was in some great films by sheer dumb luck and he was very good in those films. Mature later on would be in loads of terrible sword and sandle films and even play a giant in a segment of the Monkees film Head.
The final reason might be down to the source novel The Chair for Martin Rome by Henry Edward Helseth who hasn’t ever been a main stay in collections of hard-boiled fiction over the years, he only published a few novels. However its influence especially on Martin Scorsese due to the fact the two main characters are Italian American which in 1948 was extremely rare in cinema at the time. The film’s narrative of two sides of the law from the same background is something modern crime cinema would retell over and over again, Mean Streets is still an amazing film but Scorsese lifted a lot from Cry of the City for it.
Richard Conte’s performance as Martin Rome is perhaps his best he perfectly inhabits the role of a man who is ruthless to his core and who is completely irredeemable. Mature as Lt. Candella who is trying to pin a robbery on Rom and his fiance has the slightly simpler role as the decent cop. Due to both the excellent script and the fact Mature is able to pay off Conte’s dazzling performance so he exceeds and gives his finest performance in a mostly lacklustre career.
Siodmak shot the film on the real locations in New York City which was still relatively rare. Cry of the City came out the same year as The Naked City which also was a noir which expertly used New York location photography. Cry of the City also expertly uses Religious symbolism which also must have a huge influence on Scorsese.
This re-release of Cry of the City is a monumental moment for film noir fans who may be discovering the film for the first time. The HD transfer is excellent and as usual Black & White just looks so much better in HD. The extras are a bit on the lighter side but it includes a commentary by Adrian Martin and a newly filmed interview with Adrian Wootton. The trailer and a booklet with writing by Frank Krutnik rounds the package up.