99 River Street

99 River Street delivers a one-two punch of brute force and stylistic invention: classic Phil Karlson. Building on typical noir elements—a down-on-his-luck protagonist, an untrustworthy blonde wife, and a grisly gallery of underworld mugs—Karlson here ventures beyond standard crime-gone-wrong themes to explore the overlaps between reality and spectacle. From the brilliant opening sequence, in which a prizefighter turned cab driver (John Payne) watches himself lose on a TV program called “Great Fights of Yesterday,” Karlson exploits shifting points of view to disorient both audience and characters. The working title was “Crosstown,” evoking both the characters' mutual betrayals and the cabbie's nocturnal travels across the map of New York, finally leading him down a dead-end street in Jersey City.—Juliet Clark

Phil Karlson's Gunman's Walk screens tonight at 8:15 in our Widescreen series.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.