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Author Topic: The Phenix City Story (1955)  (Read 1868 times)
titoli
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« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2016, 09:43:32 PM »

You're welcome.

You're envious of Groggy and wanna be thanked too?

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drinkanddestroy
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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2016, 11:53:16 PM »

You're envious of Groggy and wanna be thanked too?

No. But I'd like asshole sucked  Kiss

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titoli
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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2016, 01:30:14 AM »

No. But I'd like asshole sucked  Kiss

Got a sister? If not, ask your mum. Good luck.

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titoli
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« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2016, 01:30:33 AM »

And thanks.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2017, 12:30:37 PM »

The Phenix City Story has to be the most realistic and brutal picture to come out of 50s Hollywood. It is a fascinating historical document, a look into a sordid period of American history, and a very brave film considering the circumstances under which it was made.
It is a serious low-budget production which has lost none of its ability to shock. It was directed by Phil Karlson for Allied Artists. Over the years, Phil Karlson has developed a reputation as cult director, especially among Noir fans, but in the 50s he was just another director of Bs toiling away at Poverty Row.

Karlson began his directing career at Monogram Pictures, a studio known for its buck-fifty budgets and barely week-long shooting schedules. In the late 1940s, when Monogram decided to sell an upgraded product, they replaced their banner with that of Allied Artists to add a touch of class and artsiness to the proceedings. In the 50s Karlson directed some of his best movies, many of which have become Noir classics such as 99 River Street, Kansas City Confidential and Tight Spot.
Karlson remained a B director for the duration of his entire career, but fortunately B lent itself perfectly to realism and grittiness and the kind of stories he liked to tell.
It was Karlson who insisted on on-location shooting in Phenix City, especially at the notorious 14th Street, Vice Central. Filming began barely a year after the events depicted in the film. Karlson and his crew received threats from the mob but didn’t let that deter them. They had a story to tell and this gave the film an urgency and darkness barely ever seen until then.

The movie was based on a true story, it is in parts semi-documentary exposé, social crusade, Noir plus a healthy dose of fiction.
Phenix City - dubbed Sin City, USA by the press -  was a town firmly in the hand of the mob. For a time it was known as the city with the highest venereal disease rate in the nation. Corruption ran rampant, any kind of vice - gambling, prostitution, drugs - was part of the racket, as was voter fraud and jury tampering. So it had gone on for a century. Law-abiding citizens turned a blind eye to the Syndicate’s brutal methods, maybe out of laziness and indifference, or simply out of fear. The racket was run by superficially charming crime boss Rhett Tanner (Edward Andrews) whose intimidation tactics included beatings, rape, murder and bombing houses. The town was in a strangle-hold of fear.

The story begins with Albert Patterson, lawyer in Phenix City, trying to live out his life in peace and quiet. He doesn’t want any beef with anyone, the good people of the city or the mobsters. He just wants to go along, get along and mind his own business. When his son John returns from Germany, he too is similarly inclined until he has to witness Tanner’s brutality first-hand and tries to convince his father to run for State Attorney General to clean up the city. Patterson is at first not too eager to stick his neck out, but he has to come to the realization that neutrality can only be taken so far. When a friend gets killed, he decides to fight the good fight and runs for Attorney General on an anti-corruption ticket. He wins the election which doesn’t sit well with the mob who have him gunned down in the streets. His son John takes his place and vows to end organized crime.

I had heard a lot about Phenix City before I started watching it, about its brutality and gritty realism. It starts off with a roughly fifteen minute newsreel introduction in which a reporter interviews actual locals about their side of the story. It seems some copies of the movie have this part edited out which is a relief. It’s a tedious device. When I saw it I thought I was in for an Ed Wood picture. No movie should need an overlong introduction to set the stage for what’s to come.
After that the picture still takes about 15 minutes to get going. Not until well past the 30 minute mark does the plot finally gather momentum, but from then on it never lets off. The violence is positively relentless, one horrific crime follows another. The real accomplishment of this movie lies in capturing the citizens’ feelings of paralyzing fear which is almost palpable.
The cinematography is pretty straight-forward and fairly uninspired and the picture doesn't boast any stars. In fact, most of the actors are fairly unknown to the general public though they have extensive filmographies. Edward Andrews though stands out as crime boss Tanner and so does John Larch as his evil henchman.
Special mention should go to James Edwards, an actor who was in the right place at the wrong time, like Dorothy Dandridge. He is very memorable, if a bit too saintly and dignified, as Zeke the black janitor who wants to do the right thing. Had he been born just 10 years later, he could have had a career like Sidney Poitier.

The Phenix City Story does not shy away from the full ugliness of the violence and shows it as nasty as it could safely be shown on screen. Victims here actually bleed and hurt.
The most horrific scene is the murder of a little black girl, Zeke’s daughter. Her dead body is being thrown out a moving car and right after we see a close-up of her mangled and bloodied body. It’s a scene the PCA wanted cut, but somehow Karlson managed to leave this and every other “objectionable” scene in the film. It isn’t for the squeamish.

I have seen a review that criticized the fact that the film shows the politics of the Deep South without putting it into the proper racial context. That shows that subtext should never be ignored.
This is not only a film about decent (white) citizens standing up to a racketeering Syndicate to make their town a better place to live, it is also - in admittedly couched terms - a film about racism though the Civil Rights Movement is never mentioned. It is quite easy to overlook this when the picture shows mostly white citizens fighting against the mob.
The Syndicate members are undoubtably portrayed as bigoted and intolerant racists who persecute black members of the community simply because they’re easy targets. Their language makes that blatantly clear. Apart from the atrocious violence against Zeke’s daughter, the callous nature of the corrupt and on-the-take Police Department (which has made witnesses “disappear” for a long time) becomes clear when her killing is reported. A fat and sweaty dispatcher utters the chilling casual line: ”Somebody just threw a dead n***** kid out on Patterson's lawn. Go out and have a look."
The way the script is written, it is clearly Tanner’s and his henchmen's viciousness that systematically oppressed African-Americans with coercion or violence at every turn and tried to keep the status quo. In Tanner’s words it all comes down to this: "Half the trouble with the people in the world today is they just don't want to let things stay the way they are."

This film was made just a year after the real events took place, so it doesn’t go into the later career of John Patterson. A very interesting footnote to the history is that John Patterson eventually became governor of Alabama, by running on a strictly segregationist platform. The fact that he was a segregationist is never even hinted at in the movie, but he did become know as a governor for opposing any kind of integration and civil rights. In 2008 however he endorsed President Obama. Life is stranger than fiction.

« Last Edit: May 13, 2017, 02:20:15 PM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

Jessica Rabbit
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titoli
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« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2017, 01:29:29 PM »

http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=12399.0

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2017, 01:35:12 PM »

Oops, sorry. I clicked on the Film Noir (so called) thread and this long thread does not pop up under the title. Where did you find it, titoli?

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2017, 03:49:02 PM »

SEARCH button.

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PowerRR
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« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2017, 04:16:05 PM »

This is a great film - Titoli, who cares if it's a double post - fuck yourself

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titoli
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« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2017, 05:42:27 PM »

This is a great film - Titoli, who cares if it's a double post - fuck yourself

That's no way to talk in a thread started by a lady. Roll Eyes

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2017, 06:57:06 PM »

Children, calm down.  Tongue
I'm sure CJ can fix it.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2017, 07:06:46 PM »

I first heard of this years ago through scorsese's doc A Personal Journey with Marty Through American Movies. It showed a clip of the little black girl being thrown onto the yard. I was shocked such a scene would be in a movie from 1955 - I eventually tracked down a DVD-R from a sketchy website because there had been no official release at the time. This was almost 10 years ago so I barely remember the film, but I know that I thought it was excellent

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cigar joe
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« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2017, 07:36:50 PM »

fixed

« Last Edit: May 13, 2017, 07:38:46 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2017, 08:05:05 PM »

Thank you, Joe.

PowerRR, you should rewatch. I'm sure you know it's in Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5. The print is good.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #29 on: May 18, 2017, 07:24:31 PM »

Great review as always, Jessica  Afro


I hate ratings as much as you do, but they can be useful. While bearing in mind that a rating is just the beginning of a conversation and not the end. "Liking" a movie 7/10 is very different than "liking" a move 9/10  Wink

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