Cry Danger (1951)

Directed by Robert Parrish

Cry Danger is a 1951 film noir thriller shot in twenty-two days in Los Angeles. The film was directed by Robert Parrish, a former child star and later editor in his debut as a director.

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Plot

Rocky Mulloy was sentenced to life in prison for a robbery and murder that he didn’t commit. He’s released five years later when a witness named Delong appears and provides an alibi. Rocky then sets out to find who framed him, hoping that by uncovering the actual criminals, he’ll be able to free his friend Danny Morgan, also accused of the same crime.

Delong is lying about the alibi. What he really wants is a share of the missing robbery loot. Rocky insists he wasn’t involved. They go see Morgan’s wife, Nancy, a former love of Rocky’s, who now lives in a trailer park.

Police Lt. Gus Cobb keeps an eye on Rocky because he’s still convinced of his guilt. Rocky believes that bookie Louis Castro is the mastermind. He demands $50,000 at gunpoint. Castro won’t agree to that, but gives him $500 to bet on a fixed horse race.

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Shots are fired at Delong and girlfriend Darlene near the trailer and she is killed. Nancy believes the intended victims were Rocky and herself. Rocky goes back to Castro and plays Russian roulette until Castro reveals where the robbery money can be found. It turns out Morgan was indeed involved and that Nancy now has his share.

Lt. Cobb gradually comes to believe Rocky’s innocence. Nancy says she loves him and invites him to run off together with the loot, but Rocky leaves her for the law.

Sorely Underappreciated Masterpiece of Atmospheric Noir

10/10
Author: MovieMarauder (BuddyRey@gmail.com) from North Carolina
16 June 2004

Ike basically took the words out of my mouth (for which I applaud him!), but I’ll pledge my love for this film anyway. I’m fairly new to film noir (started getting into the style in my mid to late teens, and now at twenty, I’m a fanatic) and while I’ve seen almost all of the massive hits, the films that define the genre to the critics and the movie-loving public, I’ve found that my personal favorites are films like these, the ones that are so obscure you just might stumble upon them on accident and find that you’ve unearthed a treasure trove! An undiscovered gem that is virtually ignored altogether now (and perhaps then as well), “Cry Danger” is undoubtedly in my top ten favorite film noirs of all time. Many people will chalk this up to pure foolishness or relative inexperience with the genre on my part, but before you form these opinions, let me state my case. From the first long-angled shot of this film, the richly-textured atmospheric style is laid out.

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Our lead character steps off a train, fresh out of the jail where he spent five years of his life paying for somebody else’s crime. He looks down a long, cylindrical tunnel at the station. The exit. But the tunnel represents something else. It represents the life he left as a younger man and the life he must return to as a forsaken, middle-aged, unemployed former gangster. It represents his cloudy, uncertain future, and his clinging reluctance to meet with it. From there, we’re introduced to a set of characters so shady and so thoroughly corrupted by circumstances beyond their control that the story itself must logically take place in one of the seediest, most dilapedated settings to have ever been featured as a primary backdrop in a film noir…a worn-down trailer park! Yes, it’s uncharacteristically rustic and completely atypical, but that’s another one of this film’s charms. The cramped trailer that Dick Powell and Richard Erdman share looks like it could have easily been ground zero for a moderately large hurricane, but as this is a west-coast noir, the above theory can be easily disputed. Beyond the trailer park lie villainous clip-joints and a non-descript deli which houses some mysterious vanishing bookies. Every civilian is a potential thug and every cop is on their payroll!

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The beauty of this film isn’t necessarily the plot, as others have pointed out, even though I am certainly intrigued by the dilemma of our hero and the resolution of the story should be fairly unexpected. But the real reason to watch this film is for all the little things. So many fine details woven together to form a tapestry that, taken as a whole, makes for a really fun rainy-day noir caper! Dick Powell is awesome as a basically decent guy who’s been set-up and screwed over one time too many. Richard Erdman really deserves glowing praise for his portrayal of a wise-cracking, one-legged ex-Marine (who lives in a trailer park! See why you should rent this right away?!?!). I’ve seen Erdman in a few things (most notably “Stalag 17” and “The Twilight Zone”) and this film is the perfect vehicle to showcase his understated, cynical stage presence and his emphatic, cooly-paced and bitingly sardonic delivery. An underappreciated actor who really brings it to this role. All in all, this film is too smart and too cynical to win any awards, but if you enjoy a truly sinister noir with some very unique settings and memorable performances, “Cry Danger” just may be that film. All negative criticisms aside, see this and decide for yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did!

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Dick Powell faces William Conrad, and wins … eventually.

Author: cm-4 from Idaho Falls
10 July 1999

Dick Powell is pardoned for a crime and searches for justice in post-war Los Angeles. Powell moves into a seamy trailer park on a hill overlooking the downtown (there is a great film shot of this) and teams with a disabled ex-marine. Powell confronts a gangster named Castro, played by William Conrad. Castro is definitely bad news for everyone around him.

The plot is not exceptional and certainly does not transcend B-movie standards, but the film is visually good and somehow the characters and the setting create a milieu which draws in the viewer. Definitely worth watching.

Critical response

When the film was first released the staff at Variety magazine liked the film and said, “All the ingredients for a suspenseful melodrama are contained in Cry Danger…Robert Parrish, erstwhile film editor, makes a strong directorial bow.[3]

More contemporary, Time Out’s on-line magazine review says: “…it’s the kind of movie in which, told to expect someone extra for dinner, delicious Fleming smiles ‘OK, I’ll put more water in the soup’. With excellent support players like a young, thin (for him) William Conrad and Jay Adler, this is a fast, crisp and laconic delight.”

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Synopsis by Paul Brenner

Dick Powell stars in this suspenseful melodrama, directed by Robert Parrish. Rocky Mulloy (Powell) has recently returned from prison, after being pardoned from a life sentence when new evidence clears him from a robbery conviction. Delong (Richard Erdman), a crippled Marine veteran who concocted the new evidence that got Mulloy released, thinks that Mulloy will be so grateful that he will cooperate with him and share some of the $100,000 Mulloy supposedly has hidden somewhere from the robbery. But Mulloy has other ideas — instead he wants the use his pardon as a chance to bring the real guilty parties involved in the crime to justice and to help out a needy friend who is still in the penitentiary.
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