The Port of New York

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Lazslo Benedek

REVIEWED: 02-23-98

The war on drugs, 1949-style. Yul Brynner, in his screen debut, plays Vicola, the head of a drug-smuggling operation. A shipment of pharmaceutical opiates heading in by ship turns out to be crates filled with sand, putting Customs agents on an all-out search for the real shipment. The corpse of the ship's purser is fished out of the East River, and more corpses soon start turning up as a game of cat and mouse ensues between the gangsters and the Feds. One agent is shot by the crooks and dumped overboard when he's discovered in their hideout on an undercover mission; another agent (Brady) goes undercover to try to get all the way to Vicola. Semi-documentary police procedurals became quite popular for a while in the late Forties, with lots of location shooting and official-sounding voiceovers. Port of New York follows in the style of House on 92nd Street and Jules Dassin's Naked City, with a fair amount of suspense and plenty of violent fisticuffs. George Diskant brought his striking camera work to bear as well; sometimes the "dark film" is so dark it's hard to even see what's going on. Most notable, however, is Brynner's first film role; he plays Vicola with sleek menace and self-assured evil (and with a full head of hair, too, I might add). Not an outstanding film, Port of New York is well-suited to its subject matter and has been rather neglected for years.

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