The Street with No Name
By now, there's been a real cascade of film noir releases on DVD. Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox, the two studios responsible for most of the genre's gems, have pretty much emptied their vaults of the best-known noir masterpieces. Out of the Past, Laura, The Postman Always Rings Twice, all are available on disc. In order to sate public demand, studios are now starting to release the not-so-famous "B" pictures that comprise the bulk of noir. Of course, this is a great thing: Lower in budget and less likely to feature Hollywood legends in their casts, these are the sometimes-creaky "termite" films that exemplify noir's appeal by their very un-selfconsciousness. One such entry is 1948's The Street with No Name, a square-jawed police procedural that earns its noir cred with some effectively shadowy pursuits and the presence of Richard Widmark as the charismatic villain of the piece. Nonetheless, through its first 20 minutes, the movie reeks of postwar, pro-FBI propaganda. A quote from none other than J. Edgar Hoover serves as an overture (and explains the film's title), after which a combination of stentorian narration and stock footage sets the story's stage. When a hoodlum arrested for two murders turns out to have been framed, FBI Inspector Briggs (Lloyd Nolan) decides to get to the bottom of things. He sends Agent Cordell (Mark Stevens) undercover as the emphatically named George Manly (but you can call him Kid Dynamite). Arriving in Center City, Manly naturally heads to the local boxing gym to meet the criminal element. He soon does so, in the form of Alec Stiles (Widmark), leader of a gang which includes guys named Whitey, Mutt, and (most charmingly) Shivvy. The Street With No Name was only Widmark's second film, and his presence was clearly inspired by his star-making psychopathic turn in Kiss of Death (1947). Typecast or no, the guy does a damn fine Widmark. His is the only memorable performance in the picture, and the only real dramatic sparks occur in a bristling scene between Stiles and his no-nonsense wife. A pair of chase scenes raises the suspense level, one through a departing ferry and the other a good old-fashioned climactic hustle through a deserted factory. Fox's DVD release of The Street With No Name includes an audio commentary by James Ursini and Alain Silver, co-authors of numerous noir tomes and frequent commentators on noir DVDs. In fact, their observations seem sometimes wearily voiced, as if they've grown tired of repeating the same platitudes about the genre and its films. Still, they do an admirable job of setting this film in the context of other Fox "docu-noirs" of the era, including House on 92nd Street (also featuring Nolan as Agent Briggs) and Call Northside 777. There's also comparison between The Street with No Name and its quasi-remake by Samuel Fuller, 1955's House of Bamboo (also released in this wave of Fox Film Noirs). Keep-case.