Short Ends and Leader

'Cry Danger' (1951)

Aside from its tight, fast construction, William Bowers' script is all snappy dialogue.

Cry Danger

Director: Robert Parrish
Cast: Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming
Distributor: Olive Films
Year: 1951
USDVD release date: 2014-04-08

Former crooner Dick Powell, now working the tough-guy beat, plays Rocky Mulloy. He was sent up for a robbery/murder he didn't commit, and he's just been sprung from a life sentence after five years. The ex-Marine who provided his alibi is on the make for some of that stolen cash, so he's disappointed that Rocky's innocent. Rocky looks up Nancy (Rhonda Fleming), an old flame married to a buddy still imprisoned for the same robbery. Rocky and Nancy are still stuck on each other, even though she's "out of bounds". Most of all, Rocky hounds Castro (William Conrad, in several wonderful scenes of humiliation), a scuzzball responsible for his woes. Rocky's driven, angry, sledge-hammer approach is indirectly responsible for getting a quasi-innocent party killed.

Such is Cry Danger, an independent B-film from the middle of the film noir years. Aside from its tight, fast construction, William Bowers' script is all snappy dialogue. Everyone is wounded, hard-bitten, world-weary, all working their own angle and ready for sex and booze. Richard Erdman gets a lot of the best lines as an alcoholic veteran with a wooden leg, evidently hollow. On drinking early in the day: "When you drink as much as I do, you've got to start early." When he says that only the blind can truly see, Rocky says he's only half-blind and he replies, "I'll fix that." Later he wants to sue the police department for a new leg, "in piney wood to match my den".

Director Robert Parrish seems motivated by the budget to stage everything simply and precisely in low-rent milieus, as shot by Joseph F. Biroc at real Los Angeles locations, especially the Bunker Hill neighborhood. (At a shoot-out, police cars say Angels Flight, referring to the hillside train and environs.) The black and white photography is in sharp deep focus, giving us a few ravishing vistas behind people's heads; I wanted to zoom in and start looking through store windows. The opening credits mention a title song with lyrics, but I never heard anyone sing it.

The print says the film was "preserved" by the UCLA Film & TV Archive and Film Noir Foundation; the package says "restored". Whatever happened, it looks good on the Blu-Ray from Olive Films. From its paranoid opening to its sad little wrap-up, this picture is possibly a routine example of classic noir, but it's a swell routine.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.