Rhonda Fleming and Dick Powell in Cry Danger (1951)


(director: Robert Parrish; screenwriters: William Bowers/from an unpublished story by Jerome Cady; cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc; editor: Bernard W. Burton; music: Emil Newman/Paul Dunlap; cast: Dick Powell (Rocky Mulloy ), Rhonda Fleming (Nancy Morgan), Richard Erdman (Delong), William Conrad (Louie Castro), Regis Toomey (Lieut. Gus Cobb), Jean Porter (Darlene LaVonne), Joan Banks (Mrs. Alice Fletcher), Jay Adler (Williams, Clover Trailer Park Manager), Renny McEvoy (Taxi Driver), Gloria Saunders (Crosley Hotel Cigarette Clerk), Hy Averback (Harry the Bookie), Lou Lubin (Hank), Benny Burt (Jed Russell, Los Amigos Bartender ); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: no rating; producers: Sam Wiesenthal/W.R. Frank; RKO; 1951)

“This efficient revenge yarn was shot in 22 days.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Parrish (“The Purple Plain“/”The Wonderful Country“) directs Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming in this more than satisfying breezy and fast-paced low-budget film noir. This efficient revenge yarn was shot in 22 days. Parrish makes his directorial debut, after being a child actor (“City Lights“) and a noteworthy editor. He won an Oscar for his editing in “Body and Soul (1947),” and worked as an editor for several John Ford films. Cry Danger is a prime example of the major theme many of his movies subsequently deployed, where a troubled man is seeking a place to fit into.

Rocky Mulloy (Dick Powell) is released from the slammer after serving five years of a lifetime sentence. He was framed for a murder and hold-up, where $100,000 is still missing. Rocky becomes a free man after a fellow marine, a war hero who lost his left leg and now has a drinking problem, someone he never met before, Delong (Erdman), provides him after all this time with a bogus alibi. However, Rocky’s best friend, Danny, also framed, is still in prison serving a lesser charge. Danny comes up for parole in six months. As Rocky gets off the train in LA, he’s met by the detective who arrested him, Lieutenant Gus Cobb (Toomey), and by Delong. They go to a bar for a chat, with Rocky looking just great in his fedora, as Cobb tells Rocky he will put a tail on him until the money is found. When the cop leaves, Rocky finds out from Delong why he lied. He believes Rocky has the money and wants to go partners in splitting it. It was hard to accept that as a credible plot point, but this is a B-film and Delong seemed like a pleasant enough bloke to have along for the ride.

In any case, Rocky decides to take Delong along as his partner, as he tells him he doesn’t have the cash but thinks he knows who does. Rocky then purposely makes it real easy for Cobb’s men to follow him and checks into a dumpy trailer park, because that’s where Nancy Morgan (Rhonda Fleming), Danny’s wife, is staying. Rocky tells the wolfish Delong that Nancy is out of bounds, as he stresses how loyal a friend he is. But Delong soon learns that Nancy was once Rocky’s girl, but dumped him for his pal Danny. It’s evident to Delong that the two have eyes for each other and can barely stop from groping one another. Delong wastes no time worrying about Nancy, as he quickly picks up the “trailer trash” blonde, Darlene (Jean Porter), who likes to have a good time. On their first night out on the town she rolls him.

The one who arranged the robbery is a bar owner/racketeer named Castro (Conrad), who first tried to get Rocky to go along with the heist. Rocky looks him up seeking revenge and $50,000 for being framed. Castro has one of the film’s real snappy lines, as he tells Rocky “Things have changed, I’m now 60% legitimate.” But since Rocky has a gun on him, Castro coughs over $500 and tells him to bet with a recommended bookie on a longshot nag with the odds of 8-1, that it’s a sure winner — there’s a photo of the horse crossing the finish line first even before the race is run. When Rocky collects his $4,000 winnings from the bookie, he’s asked “What do you plan to do with all the dough?” Rocky responds “I plan to get an operation, so I can play the violin again.”

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.

Things start getting ugly when someone takes a potshot at Rocky in the trailer camp. Later, as the film starts to reach its climax, hired gunmen shoot Delong and fatally shoot Darlene, as they mistake them for Rocky and Nancy. Meanwhile Rocky beats it out of Castro that it was Danny and Nancy who framed him, as Nancy has hidden the $50,000 half share from the heist her Danny boy split with Castro.

The hero is a strong personality type, who seems smart enough to walk away from his past mistakes. Rocky realizes he has to change his life in order to survive better. This film noir was photographed with a lot of light, and the main character was not filled with darkness as is usually the case in this genre. It made for a delightful romp, where the main character is disappointed in the mistakes he made and bitter over losing five years of his life; but, he has no problem going it alone and changing his life after his name has been cleared.