DARK CITY (1950)

Dark City - CoverArrow Academy’ have recently released a digitally enhanced version of ‘Dark City’. It was directed by William Dieterle; it starred Charlton Heston, Lizabeth Scott, Dean Jagger, and Jack Webb; and it lasts for 98-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with the original theatrical trailer, an image gallery, a visual essay by Philip Kemp, as well as audio commentary narrated by the film historian, Alan K. Rode. Please enjoy.

Dark City [Arrow Academy]

Within the span of a single month, the police have raided my place on at least two separate occasions on account of my dubious activities with the New York Underworld. So, to avoid any further scrutiny, both me and my pals came up with a plan in order to raise enough cash and get out of town. A plan that involved us swindling over five thousand dollars from an ex-military man, named Arthur Winant (Don DeFore), by making him lose it all while playing a friendly game of cards.

Well, when I say 'friendly', I suppose what I mean by this is that we tried to be friendly, up to a point, because we made sure he’d win the jackpot on ‘day one’ and lose it all on ‘day two’! In fact, he ended up losing so much money, that Arthur suddenly got depressed and committed suicide!

Shocking, I know, and was in no way, shape, or form, premeditated on our behalf! But in the same vein, it wasn't as shocking as when one of my pals savagely got whacked by the dead man’s brother in retaliation! Either way, that’s most probably why what next transpires tosses a coin when I say to myself, ‘Danny (Charlton Heston)! Let’s go to Vegas!‘. As a criminal sidesteps a threat – a widow wants to get out of debt — the atmosphere gets rather wet – and at the end of the day, please remember, nobody's life is worth a huge bet.

When I first sat down to watch ‘Dark City’, I said to myself: Am I watching this film because it was the first time Charlton Heston starred in a major motion picture? Or am I watching it because of my love of film noir? After all, most of us cinephiles have a completist's mentality and a need to see everything someone has starred in! So much so, in fact, that on occasion we don’t really mind if what we watch is something good (Robert Duvall, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’), bad (Benicio del Toro, 'Big Top Pee-wee'), or damn right ugly (George Clooney, 'Grizzly II').

Dark City - Charlton Heston and Lizabeth Scott
In this case, however, I suppose I would say that I’m somewhere in between; as I’m a big fan of Chuck Heston’s acting, but I’m also a big fan of film noir. So, the question remains, why do I want to watch this film? Or to be more specific about it, do these two components work well together without clashing? Personally, I’d say ‘yes’... with a ‘but’; as well as ‘no’... with a ‘despite’, but only because everything we saw on screen was nicely designed, appropriately atmospheric, and fairly classy, whereas the story in itself had its moments, both good and bad. For example, near the end of the film, Chuck's character, Danny, gets arrested for killing a man he previously had an argument with. But instead of the police throwing him in jail and figuring out if he’s innocent or guilty, what they’d rather do is release him on account of him knowing a Detective from out of town! In stark contrast to this, though, most of the gambling scenes were nicely choreographed as they managed to tell some of the story through visuals instead of words.

So, as you can see, this film is a pretty topsy-turvy film because the good was good, the bad was bad, and somewhere in between, there was a story that gradually broke free in four equal stages. Stage One, basically established most of the main characters (thieves) and defined the first portion of the plot (con a man out of his money). Whereas Stage Two, threw a spanner in the works by having the man that was conned abruptly commit suicide, thus prompting his brother to want to get his revenge. Stage Three, on the other hand, sees one of the thieves searching for the dead man's brother, only to strike up a romantic relationship with the dead man’s wife. And as for Stage Four? Well, in no uncertain terms, it manages to dot the I’s, cross the T’s, and tries its best to provide a satisfying ending. Which it does, up to a point, but only if you can look past two notable flaws.

Dark City - Charlton Heston, Jack Webb, Don DeFore, Ed Begley - Cards

The first flaw, largely revolved around the overall look of the film, which generally seemed pretty nice as it conformed to the classic film noir style: black, white, neon, glamour, and grunge. But here and there, the use of back-projection sometimes distracted from what was happening in the foreground, keeping in mind that its matted hues contrasted with its more lavish and bolder counterpart!

As for the second flaw, though, in this instance, I’d have to place the blame on the way Charlton Heston’s character was ultimately defined. Well, not only was he a thief, a murderer, as well as someone who wasn’t able to express emotion, but in addition to this, he was also a very remote figure that wasn’t kind to the women in his life! Namely, his girlfriend, Fran Garland (as played by Lizabeth Scott), because he kept on pushing her around as if she were a piece of furniture; whereas the other woman, Victoria Winant (as played by Viveca Lindfors), was someone he tried to buy with love, affection, and finally cash, because she was the widow of the man he helped drive to suicide. Admittedly, two-thirds into the film, we were presented with a very quick scene that tried to justify his misogynistic behavior. A justification that was based on a previous relationship where his ex cheated on him with his best friend.  But as far as I’m concerned, this felt fake, tacked on even, almost as if it tried to defend his actions and make him seem somehow redeemable.

Dark City - Long Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now we should all sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Paramount’ first released this production in Kansas City, Kansas, on the exact same day that Félix Lancís Sánchez became the Prime Minister of Cuba. It was on the 6th of October, 1950. (2) This film was based on a story written by Lawrence B. Marcus. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘The Invisible Avenger’ in the Netherlands, ‘The Hand That Avenges’ in France, and during pre-production, it was given the working title, ‘No Escape’. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, ‘Ripped from the Heart of the Underworld!’. (5) Even though the majority of this movie was shot inside Paramount Studios, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, some of it was also shot on location throughout two well-known American states. This includes California, where you’d be able to see North Hollywood, Ocean Park Pier, Wilshire Plaza Hotel, Valley Vista Motel, The Griffith Observatory, Union Station, and Venice Pier; as well as Las Vegas, Nevada, where you’d find The Flamingo Hotel, McCarran Field Airport, Fremont Street, and The Las Vegas Strip. During post-production, some additional background shots were also taken in Chicago, Illinois. (6) This film was directed by William Dieterle, and he’s generally best known for his work in the thirties and the forties, including ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’ [1941], ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’ [1936], as well as ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ [1939]. (7) All of the songs 'performed' by Lizabeth Scott were dubbed during post-production by Trudy Stevens, who's best known for her uncredited performance in the 1954 classic, 'White Christmas'. (8) After this flick, flicked a switch, Charlton Heston starred in an episode of the TV series, ‘Suspense’; Lizabeth Scott starred in the drama, ‘The Company She Keeps’; and Dean Jagger starred in the western, ‘Rawhide’.

Dark City - Original Poster

In closing my review of ‘Dark City’, I'm now going to rank each performance in order of preference. So, at the top of my list, I’d have to select the star of the show, Charlton Heston (Danny Haley), as he managed to convey the various sides of his character's personality in his usual stoic fashion, ranging from his romantic side, all the way to his downright mean side. Next up, I’d like to single-out the movie’s two main female leads, Lizabeth Scott (Fran Garland) and Viveca Lindfors (Victoria Winant), because considering what they had to work with, both women did a pretty good job at conveying their respective roles: Lizabeth, with her puppy-dog eyes and glamorous physique; and Viveca, with her earnest demeanor and motherly good looks. And last, but not least, an honorable mention goes out to all of the male supporting characters, including Jack Webb (Augie), Dean Jagger (Captain Garvey), Don DeFore (Arthur Winant), Ed Begley (Barney), and Harry Morgan (Soldier), who each supported this film by portraying semi-realistic archetypes that you could sometimes relate to on an emotional level, if not a spiritual one.

Dark City - Charlton Heston and Lizabeth Scott
Well, let’s face it, this film does seem to be spiritually lacking in high moral fiber, as it insinuates that you can buy redemption through financial gain instead of getting involved with a good, virtuous cause. Why is that though? Why does this film end on such a superficial note? Especially when you take into account that it was made after World War Two and tried to reflect some of the social issues associated with this global tragedy. But then again, most of this movie revolved around money and greed, so to some degree, it is kind of a fairly ironic ending as well. 

In any event, on the whole, I’d say that this film was a pretty good film; and I would highly recommend it to those of you who can look past the bad, take in the good, and would want to see Charlton Heston’s very first major motion picture.


DARK CITY (1950) DARK CITY (1950) Reviewed by David Andrews on October 07, 2019 Rating: 5

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