DVD Review: Cry Danger (1951)

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A feature filmmaking Jack of All Trades, Robert Parrish first broke into the movies acting in such classics as the 1930 antiwar Best Picture winner All Quiet on the Western Front as well as Charlie Chaplin’s bittersweet romance City Lights.

Later apprenticing as an editor while working on multiple John Ford films including the definitive Great Depression era John Steinbeck dustbowl epic The Grapes of Wrath, after eventually winning an Oscar of his own in the field of editing roughly a decade later, Robert Parrish put all his varied experience on both sides of the camera to good use by launching his directorial career.

Transitioning nicely into the role, Parrish sought out crackling original scripts with memorable dialogue, helming two Film Noirs in his first year on the job, both of which had been penned by screenwriter William Bowers.

While his second film The Mob is mostly notable for marking the onscreen debut of Charles Bronson, it’s his first effort – the razor sharp, briskly paced double crossing thriller Cry Danger (which Bowers adapted from a story by Jerome Cody) that remains just as fresh and deliciously complex more than sixty years later.

Filmed in just twenty-two days on location in Los Angeles, Cry Danger which looks better than ever in this Olive Films DVD release that serves up the Film Noir Foundation funded 2010 UCLA Film and Television Archive restoration to dazzling effect, is bolstered by the sizzling one-liners delivered with the right kind of no-nonsense, devil may care dry wit of Dick Powell.

One of film history’s greatest (yet most painfully underrated) Philip Marlowes given his stellar turn in Edward Dmytryk’s gritty adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely in Murder, My Sweet, Powell commands every scene he’s in in Danger.

An ingenious after-the-fact heist picture, Cry Danger finds Powell released from prison at the start of the film, after serving five years for a crime he didn’t commit.

Eager to settle the score, identify the people who framed him and find out their reasons, Powell’s search for not only truth but also the whopping hundred thousand dollar loot that had disappeared (and been blamed on him) leads him to face some truly shocking revelations about the people he’d assumed were on his side.

Followed by the police as well as other hoods anxious to make a play for the money before he can, Powell finds himself dodging gunfire and endless lies until he at last realizes that what put him behind bars was one hell of a complicated plan rather than a simple miscarriage of justice.

Dialogue-heavy yet distinctly Noir in mood and spirit, Cry Danger makes one hell of a stylish first impression for Parrish’s technical and artistic promise as a cinematic teller of stories.

And while from a storytelling perspective, it may tip its hat a bit too soon early on as we’re able to piece together clues and catch onto danger much faster than our hard-time hardened Hitchcockian wronged man hero, fortunately Bowers and Parrish remedy this as the movie continues.

Respecting the audience enough to keep us in suspense as the stakes are raised in the fast-moving midsection, while it grows increasingly complicated eventually Danger’s secrets are revealed in an elegantly simple yet heartbreaking twist as Powell (and by extension the viewer) learns not only the whereabouts of the loot but more importantly, the person who’d been manipulating him from the start.

A forgotten Noir that’s been given new life in this fresh presentation, Cry Danger is sure to find a new audience in viewers whose favorite film genre is filled with tough guys backlit with smoldering beauties amid heavy shadows, where danger lurks just around the corner.


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