TURNING POINT, THE (director: William Dieterle; screenwriters: Warren Duff/from the novel “Storm in the City” by Horace McCoy/; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: George Tomasini; music: Miklós Rózsa; cast: William Holden (Jerry McKibbon), Edmond O’Brien (John Conroy), Alexis Smith (Amanda Waycross), Tom Tully (Matt Conroy), Ed Begley, Sr. (Eichelberger), Danny Dayton (Roy Ackerman), Ray Teal (Clint), Neville Brand (Red), Adele Longmire (Carmelina LaRue), Ted de Corsia (Harrigan); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Irving Asher; Paramount Pictures; 1952)
“A hard-boiled entertaining crime story that is skeptical if idealistic politicians alone can clean up the dirt in a big city. “
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Warning: spoilers throughout.
A fast-paced film noir competently directed by William Dieterle from a taut script by Warren Duff. It’s based on Horace McCoy’s novel “Storm in the City” and inspired by the Kefauver Committee hearings. In an unnamed big city in the Midwest (the location shots were filmed in Los Angeles), honest political lawyer John Conroy (Edmond O’Brien) has been chosen to head an investigation of widespread corruption. Conroy targets the syndicate run by trucking and money lending tycoon Eichelberger (Ed Begley, Sr.), as the responsible party for all the vice and racketeering. Helping Conroy is his society girlfriend Amanda Waycross (Alexis Smith). Conroy’s longtime friend, Jerry McKibbon, a cynical investigative reporter for the Chronicle, doesn’t think Conroy is tough enough to handle this almost impossible assignment. Jerry also tells him “Sometimes someone has to pay an exorbitant price to uphold the majesty of the law.” This telling comment comes true by the conclusion, but the surprise is who pays this ultimate price.
Conroy idolizes his cop father, but is surprised when pop turns down his offer to work on the committee as chief investigator. When on a hunch Jerry follows Matt, he finds it leads him to Eichelberger’s headquarters. Jerry realizes that Matt is a crooked cop on the payroll of the syndicate, but instead of reporting this he tells Matt and gives him a chance to straighten things out. The syndicate fears the crime committee might be closing in so they order Matt to steal from police headquarters a criminal file from a 1934 murder case. Working with Jerry, Matt arranges to Photostat the file. But an informer tells the syndicate and Matt is rubbed out in a fake holdup, where he dies looking like a hero. The grocery store thief is killed by a gunman on a nearby truck, but Matt is credited with killing the thief and no one but Jerry suspects it was a mob hit.
Conroy is kept in the dark about his father, but tenaciously gets the goods on the crime boss through a dummy company Eichelberger used to payoff his henchmen and divert money. The committee subpoenas the incriminating records from the crime boss, but Eichelberger torches the apartment building where the files are kept which kills all the innocent tenants. This means the case against the crime boss goes down the tubes. But Jerry finally tells his pal the truth about his father, and lays a trap by running a newspaper story accusing the Eichelberger syndicate of bumping off Matt. When the thief’s wife, Carmelina, reads in the newspaper that the mob double-crossed her hubby and killed him, she informs Jerry that she will testify against them. But she was followed to their diner meeting and escapes their attempt to silence her with Jerry’s help. But Jerry falls into a trap as a hired hit man from Detroit (Brand) is brought in to assassinate him while he attends a prize fight, as Jerry attends thinking he’ll get a further lead on the case.
The story indicates how widespread is the city corruption and how brutally violent is the syndicate, caring little about human life. It was a hard-boiled entertaining crime story that is skeptical if idealistic politicians alone can clean up the dirt in a big city.
REVIEWED ON 8/27/2003 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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