Film Noir Classics: CRY DANGER
The lightning speed of a commuter train racing along behind the bold opening credits of Cry Danger (1951) lets us know right away we’re in store for one helluva ride. When the train comes to a stop in Los Angeles a man gets off, he is Rocky Malloy (Dick Powell) an infamous criminal who has just been released from prison after five years. Two men nearby immediately follow him then introduce themselves. One is Lt. Gus Cobb (Regis Toomey), a police detective who helped put Malloy away, the other is Delong (Richard Erdman), the man who helped him get out of a life term by providing an allibi for him the night of the robbery.
Rocky was originally arrested for being part of a stickup and a murder along with some others including his friend Danny. The stolen $100,000 dollars was lost and never found leaving the police baffled. Rocky explains to Gus he doesn’t know the whereabouts of the loot but Gus says hes going to watch him while hes back in town. Oddly enough, Delong is a stranger to Rocky but explains the reason why he helped him, namely the stolen money in hopes he’d get some of it.
Rocky goes to visit his friend Danny’s wife at a trailer park where she lives. His lifesaving pal Delong ends up staying with him in a rented trailer nearby. A cute dame named Darlene (Jean Porter) who resides in the park as well catches Delong’s eye and they chat a bit and when Nancy (Rhonda Fleming) arrives home she and Rocky catch up.
In need of some quick cash, Rocky heads to visit Castro (William Conrad) the same guy who set up the bank job that went bad at his office above a bar. Rocky is intent on collecting his end for serving time and wants $10,000 dollars for each of the five years he was in jail. Seeing he means business, the beady eyed Castro gives him a stake of $500 dollars to bet on horse that he’s sure will win him four grand. Rocky pays a visit to a guy named Fletcher, one of the main witnesses in his trial to see if he can help out Danny who’s still stuck in prison, but when he arrives he finds out from his wife Fletcher has died.
Rocky places the horse racing bet at a newsstand and luckily he wins then picks up the dough from a mysterious guy named Harry. In celebration, Rocky, Delong, Darlene, and Nancy go out on town for dinner and drinks. The evening goes smoothly until Gus shows up and lets Rocky know the money he received is “hot” and he has to give it back. Gus makes Rocky take him to see Harry but discovers the guy isn’t there, the newsstand girl has dissapeared and Fletcher’s wife is nowhere to be found. They goto the police station and after Rocky explains his predicament Gus calls Castro who makes out he doesn’t know anything but Gus doesn’t believe him because he saw Rocky come out of his place earlier that week. Rocky beats up the backstabbing Castro who, in retaliation, has two of his hitmen go after Rocky to get rid of him. The thugs mistake Delong and Darlene for Rocky and Nancy and when their car crashes in an alley Delong survives but tragically Darlene was killed on impact. Seeing things aren’t on the level, Gus interrogates Rocky, Nancy and Castro but comes up short on charges. Seeking revenge once again, Rocky subjects Castro to a little game of Russian Roulette in the film’s most ‘sweating bullets’ sequence. It’s here that Rocky finds out a secret that changes everything he had believed was true up to that point.
Cry Danger is a tautly directed hard boiled tale that represents crime noir at its best. The whole premise runs especially well due to Dick Powell’s slick, subdued lead performance as Rocky. He carries the movie with his ‘all business’ persona. The thing that’s great about the Rocky character is the fact that on the surface he looks like your average 1950s businessman yet when he’s pushed he turns into a mad dog that has no qualms about killing. The supporting cast help keep the film rooted in an authentic post World War II setting with noone playing their characters too over the top. The moments of ‘wink and jab’ humor are a nice touch as well.
– Cry Danger was filmed in 22 days.
– In an interview, Jean Porter said the film was “directed by Dick Powell, and he wasn’t given director credit. Dick gave Robert Parrish the director’s credit, but Dick did all the directing.”