In this drama chock full of betrayal and violence, Nick Bianco (Victor Mature – The Robe, Samson and Delilah), a man with a criminal record, cannot find a job and is worried about his wife and two daughters. He and several accomplices try to pull off a jewel heist, but he is captured and jailed by the police. Assistant D.A. Louie DeAngelo (Brian Donlevy – Beau Geste, A Cry In The Night) offers him a deal if he snitches on his fellow criminals. Nick refuses and is sent to Sing Sing. After serving three years of his sentence, he is double-crossed by his lawyer Mr. Howser (Taylor Holmes – Father of the Bride, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and his accomplices. To make things worse for Nick, his wife, Nettie (Coleen Gray – Nightmare Alley), has committed suicide leaving his two daughters to be placed in an orphanage. Nick decides to make a deal with the DeAngelo and is paroled, but things are not that easy for him. Nick has to testify against brutal murderer Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark – O. Henry's Full House, True Colors), but Tommy ends up beating the rap. It ends up in a stand-off between Tommy and Nick, with Nick just wanting to protect his family.
What stands out most about this film noir are the locations and realism of the shots. The way it is shot you almost think you are watching a documentary or newsreel of an actual event. Director Henry Hathaway (Go West Young Man, Rawhide) was even able to shoot at Sing Sing prison. The director keeps the tension at a high level in the film and has used good shots of New York City in order to make this film gritty and realistic. The film is also remarkable for introducing us to Richard Widmark, who will play the 'bad' guy in many more films. His turn as the psychopathic Tommy Udo is memorable to say the least. The scene where he pushes an old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs as he laughs is riveting. The way he played the lunatic gangster influenced the way many actors portrayed gangsters for years. Widmark's insanity is played against very nicely by Mature's emotional portrayal of a desperate small time crook. This is one of the better film noirs that I have seen.
-Fox Noir: trailers of: Call Northside 777, House of Bamboo, Laura, Panic in the Streets, and The Street With No Name