Sunday, September 14, 2014

297. The Phenix City Story (1955)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Phil Karlson
Written By: Daniel Mainwaring, Crane Wilbur
Main Cast: John McIntire, Richard Kiley, Kathryn Grant, Edward Andrews, James Edwards


Okay, now that we got all that blog birthday stuff out of our system, let's get back to business. I taped The Phenix City Story off of TCM years ago (after I first started the project) and it's been waiting on me ever since. I still have probably a dozen and a half tapes, with two or three movies each recorded on them and am trying to spread them out sporadically throughout the rest of the 150 and change I have left.

The film begins documentary style with newsman Clete Roberts (apparently a real news reporter) interviewing subjects from the real town of Phenix City, Alabama. Phenix City is Anytown, USA, except in this town, crime is king and it's gotten out of hand. Murders have become commonplace, the sounds of gunshots as frequent as the call of the robin and gambling joints, run by crooked personalities. The film gets going in the fictional sense by introducing us to Rhett Tanner (Andrews) the Al Capone of this small town. A man who runs gambling joints (crookedly, I might add) and whose money lines even the pocket's of the police. Vigilante's have taken to trying to stop Tanner and his band of hoodlums and in the middle of it all is Albert Patterson (McIntire), who is being urged to side with both the good and bad entities. However, Albert wants no part of either side and would be content to simply run his law practice and have peace. When his son, John Patterson (Kiley), returns home from war with his wife and two kids, John decides that despite the corruption, he'll plant his families roots in Phenix City, where he and wife Mary Jo grew up. Later, however, when he's attacked by some of Tanner's goons, he urges his father to run for state Attorney General and give a good effort at cleaning up the town they love. After some coaxing from his son and other notable townsfolk, Albert agrees and from there, it's an out and out battle of good vs. evil as Tanner and his men rebel against the man whom they know has a good shot at sorting out the city.


I get why it's in THE BOOK. It was brutally violent in a time when brutal violence wasn't commonplace, it was shot on location in the real town where everything REALLY went down as opposed to Hollywood, where most 50s directors would've opted to shoot it and it is unique in that it has that initial thirteen minutes of newsreel, making it part documentary and part film noir. It's all unique and it all probably lead to the big cult following that this film supposedly has and I'm sure the audiences in the 50s were flabbergasted by the originality....but....

...and I hate to be insensitive and perhaps close minded, it just isn't THAT unique anymore. Sure, I can admit that throwing a dead child's body from a moving car and having it land eyes straight at the camera was a pretty hardcore touch for 1950s, but in 2014, it just doesn't have the same *oomph* as it did in 1955. How long do we have to recognize these movies that have been one upped time and time again. When can we finally call a spade a spade and say, "Well yeah, it was good FOR IT'S TIME, but better styles & ideas and more provocative films have come along since". I hate to make myself sound like that guy who is against everything old school (because I'm not, I promise) but this is a case where the old school has been surpassed. And hey, I liked the movie just fine. It wasn't up there with my favorites of the season or anything, but it was an average venture and even managed to keep me awake, despite it being 10pm and me having just put in a grueling eight hour day. All I'm saying is that everything THE BOOK points out as reasons for the film's inclusion just don't hold up anymore. I'll gladly admit that the movie was ahead of it's time, but by 2014, it just isn't making waves anymore and thus, there's one more spot that would've been better suited for something else, something more important, something flat out better!

I don't even know why I try to argue with THE BOOK'S logic anymore. I realize I'm wasting my breath, but I feel that's kind of a part of my project: To point out where THE BOOK made a wrong decision and to state why I think said wrong decision shouldn't have been included. Like I said, a perfectly average outing at the movies, with top notch performances from pretty much everyone involved, except maybe Kiley, who seemed to be overacting a bit. John McIntire on the other hand was brilliant and the scene where he gets shot is really a big downer, because you realize that the best character just ate it and there's like thirty or so minutes of screen time left.

RATING: 5.5/10  Probably just centimeters away from a '6/10', but that just seems to high to make that call official.


September 14, 2014  5:13pm


  1. I can fully see why people find these 'now the story can be told' type Noirs, with the heavy handed voice over hard going.. and very dated.
    But being a rather dated type of person.. I rather like them.
    So lets just leave it at that.. I'd happily grant it a place n the book and give it an easy 7.5, pushing 8 for sheer entertainment.. whilst fully accepting all the very valid anti arguments you made to go lower.. Nothing to fall out over.. I'm just older than you!

    1. Well at least we can agree to disagree fairly easily. I just couldn't settle into this one and found myself just waiting for it to be over so i could collect my tick and be done with it.


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