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Down Three Dark Streets

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NR
1954

Down Three Dark Streets is a captivating, crime-ridden plunge into the underbelly of 1954 Los Angeles life. Created by Arnold Laven, it's a stark, hard-boiled film that’s both noir and procedural in its narrative, combining the dark edges of the noir aesthetic with the complex, investigative machinations typical of a procedural genre.

The movie boasts a cast led by Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman, and Martha Hyer, who, between them, bring an array of engaging, dramatic performances to the silver screen. The film is a thrilling tale that lays out the expected qualities of noir cinema - intrigue, suspense, threat, darkness - against a humanistic, relatable backdrop of everyday, metropolitan life.

Crawford stars as FBI Agent John Ripley. When his fellow agent and friend, Zack Stewart, is murdered under mysterious circumstances, he takes over Stewart's current cases, vowing to bring the culprits to justice. He finds himself facing three seemingly unconnected investigations that form the core of the movie—hence the name 'Down Three Dark Streets'. The stories are expertly intertwined, providing viewers with a rollercoaster ride of emotions and expectations, with Crawford’s seasoned detective skills at the helm, navigating through these complex, divergent trails.

The excellent Ruth Roman portrays Kate Martell, the breath-taking yet not gratuitously portrayed widowed mother. The hardship of raising a child alone in a city that is often shown as indifferent and merciless develops a deep physicality within her character. Her strength and resilience are integral to the plot, portraying a deep-seated maternal instinct to protect in face of danger.

Martha Hyer also brings to life the character of Connie Anderson, a seemingly typically 1950s female archetype who comes with her own set of unexpected twists and turns. This variation of roles brings a refreshing amount of diversity to the story, leaving viewers gripped by the outcomes of these different characters and the relationships they mold with Agent Ripley.

As befits a noir detective drama, the cityscape features prominently in the story as both a character and a backdrop. The urban setting of Los Angeles is used as a strategic element within the narrative, with seedy backstreets, looming underpasses, and various other dark corners of the city representing the dangerous, unpredictable reality faced by the characters. The atmosphere and ambiance generated by deploying effective cross-lighting, deep shadows, and stark contrasts typical of the period's noir technique further enhance the film's moody undertones.

The film's inherent thrill and intrigue are amplified by a suspenseful score by Paul Sawtell, which adds depth to the narrative and heightens the tension during key scenes. The writing, credited to Gordon and Mildred Gordon, is sharp, dramatic, and economical, providing the film with a gripping plot while maintaining character depth and development.

An interesting aspect of Down Three Dark Streets is the film’s close collaboration with the FBI. The Bureau's cooperation facilitated the documentary-style shooting method observed in various parts of the movie, providing an almost behind-the-scenes look into their operations. The result presents an enthralling blend of fact and fiction, injecting an additional layer of authenticity to the story.

The movie's climax is thrilling—suffused with indomitable suspense that keeps viewers gripped until the very end. The culmination of multiple suspenses from the three disparate storylines tests the protagonist's abilities to their utmost limit while offering an exciting pay-off for the audience.

In essence, Down Three Dark Streets is a high stakes, noir-driven FBI story that reveals a dynamic labyrinthine plot. It offers much more than a trifurcated crime narrative, spotlighting the human condition in the midst of desperation, danger, and the impersonal megalopolis of 1950’s Los Angeles. It's an important example of mid-century noir films that stands up to modern viewing, with lessons in storytelling and art direction that eclipse its vintage.

Down Three Dark Streets is a Thriller, Crime movie released in 1954. It has a runtime of 86 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.7..

6.7/10
Director
Arnold Laven
Stars
Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman, Martha Hyer, Marisa Pavan, Max Showalter, Kenneth Tobey, Gene Reynolds, William Johnstone
Also starring Ruth Roman
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