Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


THE PHENIX CITY STORY (1955). Director: Phil Karlson.

"Where do you want us to send the body?"

Based on a true story, this movie begins with some of the real-life participants being interviewed on camera. No actors' names are presented during the credits so it's a surprise to see such familiar figures pop up as Edward Anderson, Kathryn Grant, and, especially, Richard Kiley. The story has to do with corruption in Phenix City, Alabama, where anyone who disagrees with or tries to fight against the mob boss Tanner (an effective Andrews) winds up beaten up or murdered. Grant works for Tanner in his gambling den, and Kiley is the son of the solid citizen Al Patterson (John McIntire) who decides to run for state D.A. and take on his old friend Tanner. At the beginning of the film, interviewer/announcer Clete Roberts promises some shocking stuff, and even though the film was made 55 years ago, his promise is fulfilled, especially in a scene when a little black girl is horribly murdered. The lead performers are all quite good, and there's also excellent work from Lenka Peterson as Kiley's wife and James Edwards as Zeke, whose daughter is killed. While Phenix City is pretty unknown today, many years later Karlson directed a very popular -- and somewhat similar -- film, Walking Tall. Hard-hitting. NOTE: The Phenix City Story can be found on the Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5.

Verdict: Powerful stuff. ***1/2.

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