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CAPTIVE CITY, THE(director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: Karl Kamb/story by Alvin M. Josephy; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Ralph Swink; music: Jerome Moross; cast: John Forsythe (Jim Austin), Joan Camden (Marge Austin), Harold J. Kennedy (Don Carey), Ray Teal (Chief Gillette), Majorie Crossland (Mrs. Sirak), Victor Sutherland (Murray Sirak), Hal K. Dawson (Clyde Nelson), Geraldine Hall (Mrs. Nelson), Martin Milner (Phil Harding), Ian Wolfe (The Reverend Nash), Gladys Hurlbut (Linda Percy), Victor Romito (Fabretti), Estes Kefauver (Himself); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Theron Warth/Maurice Zuberano; United Artists; 1952)
“One of the first crime films to use the Kefauver crime hearings as part of its exposé story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the first crime films to use the Kefauver crime hearings as part of its exposé story. Senator Kefauver appears at the conclusion to look straight into the camera and give a speech about the effective work of his committee. Karl Kamb’s screenplay is based on a story by Time magazine reporter Alvin M. Josephy. It’s directed in a semidocumentary style by Robert Wise (“West Side Story”/”The Body Snatcher”), offering a sincere plot line, stylish noir photography by Lee Garmes and an innovative way to film the mise-en-scéne at the time. That method has since been so copied it now lacks freshness.

Jim Austin (John Forsythe) is the editor for the last five years of the Kennington Journal, located in a peaceful town of 300,000. The film opens as Jim and his wife (Joan Camden) flee in fright from pursuing criminals to Warren, a town 300 miles away, where they find the Chief of Police absent from the precinct. As a precaution, Jim records his story on a tape recorder just in case his pursuers get to him before he can reach Washington, D.C., for the “Kefauver special hearing to investigate crime in interstate commerce.”

Jim’s tale begins when a private detective, Nelson, tells him that one of the town’s leading citizens, Murray Sirak, is using his insurance company as a front for an illegal bookmaking venture. When Nelson investigates, the police harass him, tap his phone and influence the state to revoke his detective license. They are doing this to stop him from further investigating the corruption he has uncovered as part of a divorce action brought by Sirak’s wife. Jim, after talking with oily Police Chief Gillette (Ray Teal), doubts Nelson’s story, but when he turns up dead in what is falsely labeled by the police a case of hit-and-run, the editor runs the story in the paper and charges the police with neglecting to do their duty and covering up a murder. Jim’s investigation gives his business partner Don cold feet, as he complains advertisers are pulling their ads and this snooping is no good for business. But Jim, despite receiving the same treatment as Nelson from the law and the Mafia, unearths some startling information of how corrupt his hometown is and that the police are bought off to look the other way as the syndicate, under Miami racketeer Fabretti, has moved into town and run a big-time bookie operation with the cooperation of some of the town’s most respectable citizens.

The film is effectively done, but fails to excite.

REVIEWED ON 10/30/2004 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”