Things I Read Off the Screen in “City of Fear”

The bit with the tiny sailor.

Irving Lerner’s CITY OF FEAR forms the subject of a new piece by me at The Chiseler. Check it!

Vince Edwards steals a can of cobalt 60 but he doesn’t know what he’s got. He thinks it’s heroin. He spends the movie irradiating himself to death while he tries to find a buyer, and the anxious authorities try to track him down without triggering a mass panic.

The film is so stark and BARE that the climax, with all those boxy geiger counters crackling away, becomes almost luxurious when a few signs appear. Text decorates the screen for the first time — everything else in LA has looked like it’s already been nuked by a special detail-erasing device.

EXCLUSIVE CLEANERS. Yeah, it might be a little late for that, buddy.

Hilariously apposite. Edwards plays his character like a cockroach with delusions of grandeur. They say the cockroaches can survive being nuked… that’s where the resemblance ends.

DORIAN LTD, WESTERN NECKWEAR. Dorian Gray, the man whose sins catch up with him — struck down by an invisible corrupting influence. As for western neckwear, what IS western neckwear? I’ll tell you: it’s a NOOSE.

CAUTION: HIGH RADIATION AREA. How’s half-life treating you?

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3 Responses to “Things I Read Off the Screen in “City of Fear””

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    Nice appreciation. Vince is even Vincier in MURDER BY CONTRACT, and Lerner is even more Melvillean. Together they make a great double bill.

  2. kevin mummery Says:

    Funny, I just saw this about 2 weeks ago. Might make a nice companion piece with “Kiss Me Deadly” on a double bill, or even “D.O.A.” since both exploit radiation/nuclear themes. Every time I see Vince Edwards I have a sneaking suspicion that Sam Jaffee is lurking somewhere nearby.

  3. I’ll revisit Murder by Contract soon. Scorsese liked its economy, I think he related it more to Bresson than Melville.

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