Saturday, March 15, 2014


Allied Artists Pictures, 82m 18s

Free from San Quentin after serving a three-year stretch, unfairly discredited cop Vic Barron (Mark Stevens) is after Tino Morelli (Douglas Kennedy, DARK PASSAGE [1947]), a former San Francisco-based racketeer. Barron believes Morelli is responsible for planting the automobile bomb meant for Barron that claimed his wife and young daughter instead. The explosion left Barron with a horrible scar on the right side of his face. Morelli now resides in Alaska under a new identity with his daughter Marie (Cheryl Callaway, THE LINEUP [1958]). Current San Fran crime boss Nick Buda (Lewis Martin) knows all the details about what really happened to Barron, and advises his somewhat effeminate heavy Roxey Davis (Skip Homeier, BLACK WIDOW [1954]) to eliminate Morelli and let Barron take the rap in a sort of two-for-one deal.

Lt. Pat Ryan (Don Haggerty) worries about the post-prison plans of Vic Barron (Mark Stevens)

Though former colleagues Red Miller (John Doucette) and Lt. Pat Ryan (Don Haggerty) warn Barron to forget the past, the extremely tough customer Barron is obsessed with revenge, as the film's title implies. He is among the most single-minded and stone-faced of all "loner" noir protagonists, determined to get even with the man he believes destroyed his family. His short temper goes off again and again; he beats up Davis (twice), punches out Miller, chokes out and later knocks out Johnny (Mort Mills), and roughs up local cop Mike Walters (Warren Douglas). In a chilling scene, Barron offers the child Marie a bullet for her marked father.

A frame that is simultaneously fascinating and repugnant:  "...for your daddy."

If some of this sounds familiar, the screenplay by Warren Douglas and George Bricker owes something to the prior year's THE BIG HEAT (1953):  a car bomb killing loved ones, a burned countenance that emphasizes conflicting personalities, the Lee Marvin-like presence of Homeier, and the Gloria Grahame type Lily Arnold (Joan Vohs), a sexy lush who consistently complicates the agendas of the hoods in her life.

Vic Barron (Mark Stevens) visits gangster moll Lily Arnold (Joan Vohs)

Arnold nicely summarizes the existential noir universe of indifference and creeping mortality that is heightened in the criminal underworld, "One way or the other we're all on a merry-go-round...None of us can get off 'til they push us off..." The displaced figure Barron later echoes this sentiment, "Maybe I don't belong anywhere." And try as he might, Morelli cannot escape his criminal past, even though in truth he is innocent of the specific crime for which Barron wants to hold him accountable. CRY VENGEANCE offers some optimism with its conclusion, which suggests a new beginning for Barron with tavern owner Peg Harding (Martha Hyer, DOWN THREE DARK STREETS [1954]), but the overall tone is downbeat, per usual for the noir form.

Idealized, framed imagery is a familiar noir trope

This is the first feature film directed by Mark Stevens, who appeared in the classic Fox noir vehicles THE DARK CORNER (1946) and THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948). With its impressive location footage around San Francisco and especially Ketchikan, Alaska, where much of the action unfolds, consider CRY VENGEANCE a "great outdoors" noir in the vein of ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951) and NIGHTFALL (1957). Cinemtography was handled by William A. Sickner (LOOPHOLE [1954], FINGER MAN [1955]).

Johnny (Mort Mills) keeps a watchful eye on Barron (Mark Stevens)

The Blu-ray available from Olive Films is framed at 1.78:1 and displays only a minimum of artifacts and scratches.

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