Port of New York (1949): Cut-out Cops

Port of New York (1949)

An 82-min programmer from Eagle-Lion, Port of New York, was one of the first verite-style drama-cum-newsreel movies about crime fighting, which followed the classic noirs of the 40s, almost as a reactionary backlash against ambivalence, and which could be labelled as anti-noirs.  Documentary footage blended with an authoritative voice-over and a screenplay where govt officers pursue felons: brutal violence, thinly drawn characters, criminality brought to justice, and no shading or complexity.

Port of New York is interesting because of its on the street locales and notable performances.  Perversely, the cops are played as cut-outs and forgettable, while the hoods inhabit their roles with a depth that belies the earnestness of the script.   A young Yul Brunner in his first screen role is accomplished as a cunning but elegant crime boss dealing in narcotics. He does his own dirty work and kills with psychotic empathy to a recurring classical score. Arthur Blake, an actor who ever only played bit parts in a handful of b-pictures, is great as a small-time hood who is using as well as dealing, and goes cold turkey while being held by the cops.

Competent direction from Laslo Benedek and above-average camera-work from noir veteran George Diskant.

A solid-b. Great poster!


  1. When I looked at this title and poster at a glance I was somehow envisioning the Von Sternberg film, which of course had a similar title–Docks of New York–but no, lamentably I do not remember seeing this Laslo Benedek movie. Of course, Benedek’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN is quite a salient piece, as is to a lesser extent THE WILD ONE with Marlon Brando. George Diskant’s camerawork and that intermittantly classical score are surely intriguing for me as is of course the cinema-verite approach of the piece. You say a lot there in this fine capsule.

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