New York Confidential
We’re told by the ominous and self important narrator at the opening of New York Confidential that the film we’re about to see will expose the inner workings of the group of organised criminals that run the majority of rackets in the United States. The Syndicate is the name given to such a group – this being before ‘mafia’, ‘cosa nostra’ or even ‘mob’ was settled on as the preferred nomenclature – and it’s with reverent tones that the organisation is referred to. The Syndicate may well be peopled by thugs but so sacred is it that its survival comes ahead of every other factor. Before family, friendship or even personal freedom.
Into this world steps Nick Magellan, an out of town assassin who so impresses the boss on his first – and supposedly only – assignment that he’s asked to stay and before long has become an integral part of the New York operation. Nick, we quickly learn, is leagues beyond the other knuckleheads and chancers that wear trilbys too low and trenchcoats too big. Not only is he superhumanly calm under pressure he bristles charm yet knows when to bite his tongue and walk away from an insult. On top of this he is by far the most moral character of the piece so it really is a shame that crime, at least in post Hayes code film, doesn’t pay so we know the only end for him must be a sticky one.
Nick’s played by Richard Conte, who never looked anything other that primo in a suit and is gifted some great moments by writers Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse. Despite being new in town he can see the boss, played with scenery-chewing glee by Broderick Crawford, is out of his depth and is finding it difficult to balance his bonafide business with the criminal empire he can’t quite shake. “Shooting and hiding out, just like the old days” intones his elderly mother, as only a mother can do.
New York Confidential more or less plays out like most of its 50s crime compadres but it’s elevated but an intelligent script and some great performances, not least Steven Geray who has a hoot playing a whip smart accountant who revels in every dollar he can save the Syndicate and a young Anne Bancroft who may not appear often but when she does she sizzles. This may be a B picture but it holds its own and is a clear precursor to the film that came nearly two decades later and is the sine qua non of mob expose pictures – The Godfather.
New York Confidential – directed by Russell Rouse (1955)
A hitman new in town finds himself at the very heart of a mob operation, just as it begins to fall apart.