Rockstar Recommends: “Crime Wave” aka “The City Is Dark”
Crime Wave (1954; Andre De Toth)
“Pretty isn’t she?
Third largest city in the country.
She’s quite a lady...
Kind of peaceful too in the warm, friendly light of day.
But when the light goes down and the city is dark, its back streets and brooding alleys become a jungle and its denizens stretch out their claws of violence from the shadows.”
The lady of which the narrator speaks in the trailer above is, you guessed it, none other than Los Angeles (by now of course the 2nd largest city in the country).
Summed up eloquently here, and grittily depicted from frame to frame in this film noir classic with all the trimmings to get you primed for L.A. Noire. Quite apropos, the LA-set “Crime Wave” was also titled and alternatively released under the name “The City Is Dark”.
Released by Warner Brothers in 1954, a studio that helped define the crime and gangster genres going way back to Cagney in the 30’s, “Crime Wave” tells the tale of Steve Lacey (played by Gene Nelson) the archetypal bad guy gone good who can’t escape his past – a reformed ex-con now on the straight and narrow with a plum job, a lovely wife, and a sympathetic parole officer. When a trio of hardened criminals bust out of the joint, old prison-mates of Lacey’s (“alumni” of his “alma mater”), they track him down, disrupting his honest life, and turn the screws to coerce him into joining them on one last job. Strong-arming Lacey by threatening his wife, he’s forced to help them against his will as a getaway man on a big score to heist a local LA bank before the fugitives skip town for good. Of course, things don’t quite go according to plan…
Look out for a phenomenal film noir cast in this one including:
- Ted de Corsia as the gang’s ringleader – an actor you may recognize from his appearance as ex-wrestler Willie Garzah in our previous recommendation “The Naked City”
- A young Charles Bronson (who then was going by his given name, Charles Buchinsky) in a great early role as one of the vicious escaped convicts
- Film legend Sterling Hayden as the relentless LAPD lieutenant detective on the case who hounds Lacey and the cons all the way to the breaking point
- And swarthy character actor Jay Novello with a career spanning four decades worth of film and television, playing a role you don’t typically see - a crooked drunkard stoolie veterinarian
Previous Rockstar Recommends:
True Crime Detective Magazines (Taschen)
Rare California-Set Films of the 13th Annual Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir
“The Naked City” | “He Walked by Night” | “Chinatown” | “Scarlet Street” | “Detour”