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DVD: Street with No Name, The (1948)
Review Rating:   Good  
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20th Century-Fox 
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1 (NTSC)

June 7, 2005



Genre: Film noir / suspense  
A FBI agent tries to solve the puzzling murders of a housewife and bank guard, linked by the same murder weapon, and a local crime boss.  



Directed by:

William Keighley
Screenplay by: Harry Kleiner
Music by: Lionel Newman
Produced by: Samuel G. Engel

Mark Stevens,  Richard Widmark,  Lloyd Nolan,  Barbara Lawrence,  Ed Begley,  Donald Buka,  Joseph Pevney,  John McIntire,  Walter Greaza,  Howard Smith

Film Length: 91 mins Process/Ratio: 1.33:1
Black & White Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   English (Mono),  English (Stereo),  Spanish (Mono) / Enlish & Spanish Subtitles
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Film Historians James Ursini and Alain Silver / Theatrical trailer for "The Street With No Name," plus trailers for "Laura," "Panic In The Streets," "House Of Bamboo" and "Call Northside 777"

Comments :

The first version of Harry Kleiner's suspenseful noire was filmed in 1947 by veteran director William Keighley, better remembered as the co-director of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938). As historians James Ursini and Alain Silver explain in their highly informative commentary track, Keighley was close to retiring by the late Forties, and his style alters the film's formal docu-drama structure with a curious retro veneer. Much of the montages and nuances - police wielding Tommy Guns, a blonde gangster moll, and tough guys planning the latest caper in a dingy lounge - hark back to Keighley's 1935 crime thriller, "G-Men," and though cited by the historians as an antiquated approach, the old tricks still work; "Street With No Shame" is still a caper film, but with some major genre upgrades.

Much like Fox' superlative "Call Northside 777," "Street" obsesses with judicial and investigative procedures, and makes for a fascinating cultural time-capsule; here, it's an odd blend of familiar cliches rubbing against newfangled techniques, including ballistic and forensic advances. Years before Jimmy Stewart would glamorize the FBI's status as the pre-eminent anti-crime force in the glossy Technicolor paean, "The F.B.I. Story" (1959), "Street" pays tribute to the hallowed stature of the bureau's imperial chief, via a personal teletype message from J. Edgar Hoover.

Ursini and Silver give excellent capsule bios for the film's cast, which includes Joseph Pevney (later to become a ridiculously prolific TV director), and perpetual character actors Ed Begley, and John McIntire. The historians also place the film in its historical and genre context, and more importantly, cite core differences between the Keighley and Sam Fuller version of Kleiner screenplay. Fuller would magically transpose the story to Japan in "House of Bamboo" (1955), and accentuate the homoerotic undertones of the story's leading adversaries in his own rewrite of the script. While it's still easy to trace the surviving story in Fuller's reinvention, Fuller's emphasis on culture clashes (plus more contemporary tweaks to the characters' backgrounds, and a female love interest for the hero) make it possible to enjoy both films as distinct caper films.

(One sequence, however, makes "Street" even more relevant to modern film buffs, though the payoff is not what the filmmakers intended. Like "The F.B.I. Story," the film initially follows the training of a top recruit, and contains a self-defense walk-through, in which Mark Stevens must fire appropriately from his service revolver as cardboard characters flip up from behind a knoll. Each test is followed by a direct Q&A from his supervisor, and the whole sequence becomes rather comical if one's seen "Men In Black;" in that film, MIB candidate Will Smith partakes in a shooting test, and describes his reasoning in putting down a little girl cutout with the heavy chemistry books, instead of the alien caricatures.)

Fox' transfer is uniformly excellent, and really shows off Joe MacDonald's amazing cinematography; it's a benchmark in noire atmosphere, and makes superb use of actual locations to give the story just another level of verisimilitude. Like "Northside" and "Panic in the Streets," the music score is also very sparse, with stock cues laboriously trumpeting the virtues of the FBI during bureau montages, and dialogue and sound effects taking over for the rest of the film.

Another superior entry in Fox' latest film noire wave.

© 2005 Mark R. Hasan

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