While the City Sleeps

1956

Crime / Drama / Film-Noir / Thriller

2
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 89%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 68%
IMDb Rating 7 10 4278

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Vincent Price as Walter Kyne
Thomas Mitchell as Jon Day Griffith
George Sanders as Mark Loving
Rhonda Fleming as Dorothy Kyne
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
818.22 MB
1280*630
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 40 min
P/S counting...
1.57 GB
1920*944
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 40 min
P/S 5 / 23

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Martin Bradley 7 / 10

Lang's cynical critique of American values

Between 1936 and 1956, during his tenure in America, the German director Fritz Lang made some of the most psychologically astute movies ever to come out of the studio system, often working with the flimsiest of material; pulpish fiction indeed. Most of these films were thrillers, though perhaps only in the most nebulous sense of the term, dealing instead with the psychosis of the killer or, as here, with the iniquitous motives of those on the periphery of the case. 'Plot', in the strictest sense of the term, never really interested Lang, 'the story' as such being secondary to the observational detail and the characterizations. In "While the City Sleeps" the serial killer whom we expect to be at the centre is side-lined to such an extent that catching him is never the focus of attention. He's the 'McGuffin', if you like, for an entirely different movie, one in which the thriller element is dispatched in favour of a study of greed and the relationships, not always savory, between men and women.

The film is set in the world of newspapers and news agencies, so you expect an aura of venality from the outset. Vincent Price is the vain, self-centered scion of a recently deceased magnate who has taken over his father's business and wants someone else to do all the work. So he creates a new executive position then sets three of his top men against each other vying for the job. The one who 'catches' or names the serial killer terrorizing women in New York, gets it.

Like many of Lang's films, "While the City Sleeps" had the tawdry feel of a B-movie. There is a kind of rough urgency to it that a more main-streamed movie might have lacked. (You could say Lang's genius was for making silk purses out of sow's ears). He didn't work with 'stars' but character players. About the biggest name in the movie and the 'star' of the picture is Dana Andrews, (superb, he was a very under-rated actor), as the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who, like many of Lang's characters, is less noble than he first appears. As for the rest, despite there being two Oscar winners in the cast, (George Sanders, one of his poorer performances, and Thomas Mitchell, excellent), they were mainly the stable diet of the B-movie, though that said there is a terrific performance from the under-rated Sally Forrest as Andrews' girl who he is not above using as bait to catch the killer and a typically flamboyant one from Ida Lupino.

After this, Lang was to make only one more film in America before returning to his native Germany, the equally cynical "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Indeed it's Lang's cynicism and his critique of American values and mores that set him apart, that put him, like those other European émigrés, Otto Preminger and Douglas Sirk at a critical remove from his American counterparts. In this respect, perhaps, the only American who can be compared to him is Samuel Fuller.

Reviewed by silverscreen888 8 / 10

One of the Best Newspaper Films; a Taut Drama of Ideas and Actions

This is my favorite film of all time on the absorbing subject of how to and how not to run a newspaper, after "The Fountainhead". The very clever main plot concerns what happens at the Kyne News Service when its founder/boss dies suddenly; his corrupt heir soon decides to stage a contest among the heads of the Service's three divisions--to keep them under his thumb while he pretends to be boss--while Ed Mobley, the boss's former heir-apparent refuses to ask to participate. The machinations of the three aspirants are then played out against Mobley's pursuit of a rapist known as 'The Lipstick Killer" and Mobley's pursuit of his skittish fiancée who has her own doubts about him and the situation. The authors of the piece in the first half of the film seem to my standards do have done better than anyone else ever has in presenting the point of view of those who define, cover and are affected by 'the news'--news of the day or more lasting sorts. This classy but never glossy B/W film was very well directed by veteran Fritz Lang, with screenplay credited to Charles Einstein and Casey Robinson. The sets by Joel Mills are very good, lighting is excellent, and the costumes by Norma and music (by Herschel Burke-Gilbert)are seamlessly good. But the fascinating element in the film for me is the very good acting Lang gets from a mixed cast of young and veteran performers. Fine actor Robert Warwick's demise as Amos Kyne leaves his son Vincent Price, wonderfully unprincipled, in charge of his empire. As the three division heads, the viewer has the fun of watching George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell and James Craig, with the ladies who complicate their lives being hard-boiled Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, at her best in every sense, and lovely young Sally Forrest. Everyone is very good indeed. Mobley is played very well by Dana Andrews. John Drew Barrymore is the killer, in his first major role, and his long-suffering mother is played by Mae Marsh. The climax of the film comes when the killer stalks Mobley's fiancée, and he has to wonder even if he succeeds in setting her up in a successful trap ( rigged for the man who's already stalking her thanks to his having taunted him on the airwaves) whether she will still want him or not. The climax is active and satisfying; and the denouement and ending even better. This is a first-rate and well-remembered film that just missed being even greater. I never miss it; and my advice to anyone is to adopt the same attitude.

Reviewed by bmacv 8 / 10

Lang tries a more popular style of crime drama as his American career winds down

Tugboats scudding down a dark river nudge us urgently into `New York City – Tonight.' Fritz Lang's While The City Sleep opens like an urban legend: A drugstore delivery man (John Barrymore, Jr.) invades an apartment on a quiet street of brownstones and murders a young woman. Scrawled on the wall in lipstick is a cryptic, chilling order – `Ask mother.'

But Lang swiftly shifts registers; the young psycho-killer is but leaven for his loaf. His prime focus proves to be how the search to catch the culprit plays out in the executive suite of a huge media syndicate. Its founder, Amos Kyne (Robert Warwick), rules his empire from a hospital bed in his office; his last order, before his ticker tocks its last, is to label the anonymous Barrymore `the lipstick killer' and play him big. (`Kyne' seems deliberately to evoke another press magnate, Charles Foster Kane, even down to the maps showing his coast-to-coast reach and the encircled `K' logo that could have been ripped off the gates of Xanadu.)

Kyne's power, however, devolves to his pompous, petty son (Vincent Price). Knowing they hold him in contempt, he sets the heads of his various divisions to finding the killer, with a new directorship as the prize. Among the contenders are Thomas Mitchell, editor of the syndicate's flagship newspaper, the Sentinel; George Sanders, chief of its wire service; and James Craig, who runs its photo operation. Above the fray is Pulitzer-Prize winning TV commentator Dana Andrews, whose only ambition is to be left alone to pursue his drinking and his girl (Sally Forrest). Nor are any women eligible for the prize, though Price's trophy wife (Rhonda Fleming) pulls strings on behalf of her lover Craig, while mink-wrapped sob sister Ida Lupino (`Champagne cocktail. Brandy float.') initiates like maneuvers for her squeeze, Sanders.

Indifference to the prize, however, doesn't dampen Andrews' journalistic ardor. Not only does he use his broadcast to bait the `momma's boy' (who watches in his jammies as his mother, Mae Marsh, dotingly dithers around), he sets up Forrest as bait. For all his menace, Barrymore's not the brightest lad in the boroughs, and thus can be excused for mixing up his targets....

With its high-powered (and hammy) cast, its blend of psychopathology and cutthroat corporate culture, While The City Sleeps would end up standing as Lang's last American film but one (the far-fetched Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, also starring Andrews). His following so many plot strands results in a thinning of atmosphere, some fragmentation of focus – there's a buoyancy of tone which was decidedly absent from his other films of the ‘50s, like Clash By Night or The Big Heat or Human Desire. While The City Sleeps tempers hard-core noir with more mainstream motives. It's a slick, entertaining, and at times even scary movie.

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