View Full Version : Kansas City Confidential (1952)
06-16-2003, 11:14 AM
Taped this off TCM recently,it was one of those films that I had somehow missed out on.A tough,compact little crime film that has a lot to recommend.The story is about an ex-con who is framed in a hold up.He decides to track down the guilty parties himself,and traces them to a Mexican resort.The cast is great,a trio of toughs played by Lee Van Cleef,Neville Brand,and Jack Elam.The leader of the gang wears a mask at times,adding an almost comic book feel.The ending is a bit too tidy and "happy",but otherwise this is an engaging and fast-paced thriller.Anyone else seen it?
06-16-2003, 11:58 AM
I have the Image DVD, the film is a nice afternoon diversion, not a classic, but worth a viewing.
06-16-2003, 03:10 PM
It may not be a classic, but it's a superior B-movie. I bought the Image dvd to upgrade my Sinister cinema tape, but was a little dissapointed in the condition of the film, I felt Sinister's print was better. A slogan on the front of the dvd packaging - "DARK CITY CLASSICS - Film Noir Thrillers" let me to think that there would a series of SE noir dvds by Image, but nothing yet. It's sad how little noir has been released.
There's an interview with Coleen Gray on it conducted by the guy who wrote Dark City - The Lost World of Film Noir and Dark City Dames; both are recommended. As the case is with many of these interviews with older stars, she doesn't remember much of Kansas City Confidential.
06-16-2003, 04:02 PM
You know,I didn`t even know this was on dvd!I am going to have to pick it up,like Kathy said,it may not be a classic,but it`s a damn entertaining.The print TCM ran was pretty nice looking,btw.
I don`t really consider it a film noir,more a crime picture.
06-18-2003, 08:20 PM
Wish more of Karlson's film noirs and westerns would come out on DVD.
06-28-2003, 03:17 PM
I'll second you on that God of Death. Saw 99 River Street last year and was damn impressed. Shame that Karlson never got the recognition that, say, Sam Fuller did.
07-27-2003, 10:10 AM
I watched this last night by way of the Alpha DVD and I was impressed with both the film and the disc. As Andrew stated, I'm not sure if this is a typical Noir and probably is more of a crime drama but certain aspects of it did indeed have a "noir" feel. IMDB catagorizes the film as "Crime/Film-Noir/Drama" and AllMovie Guide catagorizes it as a crime drama. Anyway, the movie is briskly paced and may just be one of the "sweatiest" films I can remember seeing. Solid cast lead by John Payne, Preston Foster, Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, Jack Elam and Coleen Gray and taut direction supplied by Phil Karlson. I also agree with Andrew that the ending was a bit too convenient and happy but the movie is indeed thrilling and fast paced.
The Alpha DVD was just terrific in both audio and video quality for the $5 price tag. The image was clear and pretty much damage free with the exception of the usual and minor happenings at the reel changes and the audio was clear and just right. The disc with closing credits ran about 99 minutes and appears to be complete. Great job by Alpha on this one.
11-21-2004, 05:03 AM
Early 1950s noir has a distinct style and feel that is different from noir in the 1940s. Kansas City Confidential with its rough, brutal style is a good example of early 50s film noir where the genre become more rough with its violence, the villains become more cruel, and cynicism increases. Other film noirs like The Big Heat(1953), Pickup on South Street(1952), Crimewave(1954) for example would follow this pattern. The noir also by this time moves away from the shadowly look of 40s noir into something more naturalistic that began to take shape in the late 40s. Early 50s noir, especially ones I've seen are full of memorable anti heros, mean spirited villains, tense set pieces that make the best of them very entertaining. A sub genre of noir that became big in the 1950s is the heist genre. As far as I am aware, the first hints of this genre are Robert Siodmak's The Killers and Raoul Walsh's White Heat. The film that is mainly responsible for the emergence of the heist genre is John Huston's Asphalt Jungle which would lead to other films of its kind. Kansas City Confidential is a very good example of the genre and compares very well I think to other heist films made around the same period. The heist genre has endured because there is anything about it that fascinates audiences. The recruiting for the armor car robbery is set up very crisply, and with rhythematic editing. The introduction of the first person chosen, Pete Harris is shown with sweaty intensity. The tension is there in the phone conversation with the organizer, and in the confrontation at the organizer's hotel room. The scene with the next person chosen has a small dose of humor in the final comment by Lee Van Cleef's Tony Romano. The short scene with the final recruit is effective in introducing Boyd Kane as a serious minded, hard edge criminal who likes to chew gum. Organizer of the robbery, Tim Foster is introduced as a behind the scenes mystery man who the viewer knows nothing about him until the film gets into the Mexico section of the story. One thing I wonder is why is the film called Kansas City Confidential when most of it takes place in Mexico. Very good in detailing the main protagonists search for the criminals to clear his name, and to a small extent, seek some kind of redemption. This are the two things that drive him and it is one of the interesting things about the film. Sure the film has its share of flaws, but imo there are not big enough to loosen the film's entertainment level. The opening has the feel that is a little semi documentic.
Kansas City Confidential(1952) is inhibited by a dependable hard boiled supporting cast who get into their characters very well and gives them a distinctive personal trait. Jack Elam is ideally cast in the role of Pete Harris, an example of why he was a wonderful character actor. Lee Van Cleef is at home in his role as the smooth, but cold blooded Tony Romano. Neville Brand is very good in his role and whose trait of chewing gum proves to be a memorable character touch. Together, Van Cleef and Brand make for a formidable villain pair who have an intimidating presence. Lee Van Cleef's Tony Romano is like a young Angel Eyes. Only Tony Romano is not as experienced, or has been around as the character in Leone's film. But Tony Romano is what I can imagine Angel Eyes to have been as a younger man. Van Cleef's role here is a role that imo is a good warm up to his performance as Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. One characteristic the two characters share is the cold blooded, brutal nature that make them memorable villains. There is the depiction of the bitter ex policeman whose motives are for his personal security and to make up for a poor pension plan. A person who felt he did his duty, yet was unfairly forced into retirement because he choose the wrong party during an election. I think Tim Foster becomes a fascinating character once some details are revealed about him. Preston Foster does a decent job in this role that is a Broadrick Crawford type of role(the actor resembles Crawford a little). His performance is not great, but dependable. There is also the dillusioned war veteran who has fallen on hard luck because of a past criminal record, and is framed for the armor car robbery. His attempt to clear his name is understandable and makes him a sympathetic anti hero. A character whose hard boiled, violent nature was suitable for the war environment, yet once it ended, he seemed to have a hard time adjusting. I think this is one reason for his search of the real robbers to clear his name, for a personal battle. John Payne does a very good job in bringing out the cynical, bitter, angry nature of Joe Rolfe.
11-21-2004, 05:53 AM
With films like Kansas City Confidential and Scandal Sheet, Phil Karlson compares very well with other directors of the noir genre from the early 50s. These two are the only noir films from him I've seen, and would like to see more of his work from the genre. His direction is crisp, tight, and sustained. He does a good job in creating mood for this film. He also is effective in creating some tension with what character know or not know about each other and the cat and mouse games involved. John Payne is very good as the anti hero and holds his own against Van Cleef and Brand. His character is in the tradition of a Dennis Keefe, Sterling Hayden and with the same hard boiled qualities. I like his performance here because of the way Payne plays his character and with the brooding touch that is given in the role. Payne gets into character with conviction and always comes up with some memorable line. With this character there is a good balance between angst seriousness and dry, biting humor. Like other noir of the period, Kansas City Confidential is characterized by its rough style where every hit, every punch feels very real. The couple of brawl scenes are well executed and well acted because there is nothing that feels fake about them. When characters hit in this film, they hit hard, and rough. The scuffle in Joe's resort room is tensely choreographed and feels realistic. The scene is realistic because it is not smooth or fancy, but rough, clumsy, and awkward. The robbery is not empharized much as in some other heist films of the same period. The main concern is more with the aftermath of the robbery and the consequences that lead the characters to do what they do. A gritty film whose b/w lighting feels more natural without the expressionist aspects of 1940s noir. The gritty style is one of many things that gives the film its character. The photography is very good and captures the film's look with cogency.
Although they will be presented as opposing forces, Tim Foster and Joe Rolfe are a lot more a like than different. Both are bitter for what has happened to them, yet each takes a different road in handling their bitterness. They are two halves of one coin. Serving as mirror images who are on a collusion course that will end in one's death. This is another aspect that is fascinating about Kansas City Confidential. Like other film noirs, this has its share of classic dialogue. Whether it is the "Look friend. If you don't like it, don't knock it" smooth remark of Tony Romano. The thinly veiled threat of "Hey Tony, I know a sure cure for a nose blood. A cold knife in the middle of the back" with a touch of humor. Or even the memorable "If I'm wrong, I'll aprogize" line that is pre Tarantino. These are three examples I can come up with as these are three of my favorite lines from the movie. The internal conflict that Tim Foster faces when his daughter falls in love with Joe increases the tense nature of the film. Sure, the daughter may be the typical film love interest, but Coleen Grey is likeable in the role. The scenes with the daughter may not be the film's strong area, but I don't think they hurt it. The interogration scenes are hard edged and show the Police in a very unlikeable light. Joe's "Thanks for nothing" comment is potent at his bitterness for being treated as he is. The final confrontation is set up competently is another scene that is hard edge, rough and ready. One memorable visual is when Joe lights a cigerette and there is a reflection inside the car front window of the two villains. An image full of style and is the one moment that is very expressionistic. I think the film has aged well and is as good as other noir films in the film. The ending is a little of a let down, and would serve as a interesting contrast to the ending of Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin.
10-21-2007, 04:11 AM
Other noirs by Karlson still has yet to receive R1 DVD releases.
10-21-2007, 09:44 PM
I have the Alpha DVD and really enjoyed it...it's not a 'clsssic' but it's good and definitely worth owning if yer a fan of noir/crime-drama...for the price you can't pass it up!
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