Is it worth imagining how Hollywood might have evolved without the influx of European immigrants in the 1930s? German expressionism might still have leaked into the mainstream, but the fecund omni-genre that was film noir would surely never have gripped so tightly. Robert Siodmak does not have the marquee status of Fritz Lang.
Nonetheless, connoisseurs celebrate the Dresden-born director – who worked often with his younger brother Curt – for delivering some of Hollywood's most delightfully dark entertainments. The Spiral Staircase (a horror melodrama) and The Killers (a key text in the noir genre) survive endless revivals with reputations enhanced.
Cry of the City, adapted in 1948 from Henry Edward Helseth's The Chair for Martin Rome, is less well known, but it proves worthy of rediscovery. This is the old story about the cop and the villain who, having grown up in the same neighbourhood, find themselves crossing swords as morose adults.
The reliably crumpled Victor Mature plays Lieut Candella. Richard Conte, the great Italian-American heavy, is Marty Rome, the murderer who expects his old pal to help him out. At first Candella is compromised, but Marty’s increasing psychopathy eventually focuses the cop’s mind.
There are all sorts of familiar tropes floating about. Happily, Siodmak’s sympathy for the outsider and his gift for location shooting kick the film out of the ordinary. This is among a relatively small selection of contemporaneous Hollywood thrillers that allow the streets of New York to look like (and often play) themselves.
Keep eyes peeled for a terrific cameo from Hope Emerson as a weighty, possibly sadistic masseuse.