It was hard for me to believe that the very private F.B.I. opened up its case files to Hollywood, but apparently such was the case. In the late 1940s and the 1950s a whole slew of film noir style movies were actually adapted from the actual case files of the F.B.I. One of film noir's goals is to try and tell realistic stories about crime, mystery, femmes fatales and moral conflict and The Street With No Name is no exception. This black and white film was originally released in 1948 and was directed by the respected William Keighley (The Man Who Came to Dinner and The Adventures of Robin Hood) and penned by veteran film noir writer Harry Kleiner (Red Heat and Extreme Prejudice). The film is dark, gritty and moody and a large part of the reason is lead by bad guy Richard Widmark's character. There are many twists and turns in the plot. You are always left hanging as to whether the F.B.I. is going to get their man or not and for me, a new appreciation of how hard it is for them to catch criminals was born. Two of the very few shortcomings of this film is the lack of a femme fatale and the under use of the very good acting of Barbara Lawrence (Oklahoma! and Give My Regards to Broadway) as Julia Stiles. The film starts off slow, but if you stick with it the last hour or so is high quality film noir.
A gang of robbers go into the Meadowbrook nightclub in Center City. During the holdup Helen Jennings (a housewife) is killed. The bullet that killed her is removed and sent to the F.B.I. to compare it to those on file. It ends up matching a bullet removed from Frank Malloy (a bank guard) who was killed during a bank robbery that happened five days ago in the same city. F.B.I. inspector George Briggs (Lloyd Nolan – Hannah and Her Sisters and Airport) is assigned the case. Robert Danker (Robert Patten – Airport and Breakfast at Tiffany's), a local criminal, is brought in for questioning. He is told that his license was found at the club. Danker claims to have been in Chicago at the time of the crime and says that he must have been framed. When he is questioned he does not talk. The F.B.I. investigate and find out that Danker was in Chicago, but before they can let him out a John Smith puts up bail to release him.
Later that day a body with multiple stab wounds is found beside the highway. It is Robert Danker. Briggs knows that Danker lived around the docks and there are many gangs in this area. Briggs sends Agent Gene Cordell (Mark Stevens – The Snake Pit), one of his best agents, to the dock undercover to try and infiltrate the gang run by up-and-coming crime boss Alec Stiles (Richard Widmark – Against All Odds and Coma). Using the name George Manley, Cordell gets himself known in the skid row area. He goes to a local boxing gym, which is owned by Stiles, and starts boxing as Kid Dynamite. He even starts to win, which gets Stiles' attention. Cordell/Manley's social security card is stolen and he is later arrested because the card is found at a jewelry heist. He too is being framed. The same John Smith pays for Cordell/Manley's bail. Cordell/Manley is brought to meet Stiles, who asks him to join his gang.
The gang plots a heist. Stiles has a man planted within the F.B.I., Ralph Demory (Howard Smith – Death of a Salesman), who lets him know what they are up to. Stiles gets a tip that Cordell/Manley is an F.B.I. agent. He then blackmails Demory into arranging to get Cordell/Manley killed by the cops. Briggs finds out that Stiles is on to Cordell and has to get to him before Stiles does.
Special DVD Features:
-Fox Noir: Trailers for the films: Call Northside 777, House of Bamboo, Laura, and Panic in the Streets.