Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

99 River Street

99 River StreetCinema Monolith: 9/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 7.5/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *** out of 4

Released on October 3, 1953
Not rated
83 minutes

Directed by Phil Karlson

Written by Robert Smith, from a story by George Zuckerman

Cast: John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter, Frank Faylen, Peggie Castle, Jay Adler, Jack Lambert, Glenn Langan, Eddy Waller, Ian Wolfe, John Daheim, William Tannen, Peter Leeds, Helen Kleeb, Claire Carleton, Vivi Janiss

“You don’t know what he’s like. He broods about things, and suddenly explodes.”

A snappy, action-packed film noir that grabbed hold of me and refused to let go; an incredibly entertaining 83 minutes of noir twists, turns, and atmosphere, directed with style and smarts by Phil Karlson, who displayed a sharp noir mentality that was present in every scene. Everything about this effort was top-notch, from the direction to the story to the actors, but what really hit home was the pervading sense that the world was spiraling downward for each and every one of these characters, and only a few—if any—would make it out unscathed.

John Payne plays down-on-his-luck cab driver Ernie Driscoll, a decent guy who almost hit the big time as a boxer, who finds himself the sap in a plan hatched by his cheating wife, and is soon chased by thugs, hunted by cops, and accused of murder, all in the span of one night. This poor slob is betrayed at every turn, but he’s soon had enough and begins fighting back, slugging heavies and jerks senseless with every vengeful opportunity. Eventually an actress friend decides to help clear his name, and both find themselves mixed up with a dangerous diamond fence and his goons, as well as the hood who’s actually responsible for the murder.

This unheralded little film was just loaded with surprises, and I especially loved the way several semi-connected stories collided at the midpoint, then collided yet again at film’s end, at where else but 99 River Street. There were some fairly sexy scenes, too, especially when hot dame Peggie Castle was involved, and it’s a shame she didn’t appear in more noir films; she had the right attitude and a luscious look about her. And without a doubt my favorite moment involved Payne turning the tables on quintessential noir henchman Jack Lambert; for me, the sight of a deserving thug getting the absolute hell beaten out of him was icing on a dark, rain-slicked cake.

I was first introduced to Payne via an earlier noir film, Kansas City Confidential, but it was in 99 River Street that I really took notice of him and his skills as a noir actor: his character was a chump, but one who refused to be duped or taken advantage of, and whose boxing skills and temper were indeed a volatile combination. His face and expressions gave off a ‘tired with life’ vibe, but when pushed too far, his passive mug hardened to one of cynicism and barely-contained rage. I loved how director Karlson used extreme close-ups and head shots to emphasize these boiling point moments, where Payne spoke his sharp-edged lines with utter conviction. This was not a guy to be messed with.

Karlson established a wonderful noir mood with his camera angles, lighting, and clever touches, and made the audience feel like they were walking and driving the nighttime streets of New York City along with Payne, even though most of the movie was filmed inside sets and on studio back lots. To me, 99 River Street is one of the roughest and most mean-spirited noirs ever made…not one character was safe from being punched, shoved, slapped, clubbed, or beaten down with harsh words. This is a fine example of film noir done right, with plenty of choice dialogue and compelling situations to keep any fan of the style entertained.  (9/10)

99 River Street - photo final


14 comments on “99 River Street

  1. Funny that we both did this one within a week. Yes it’s tough and mean and that’s the way I like my Noir efforts. John Payne continues to grow on me and I’ll continue to seek out his films.


    • Todd B

      I loved how everyone kept getting literally shoved around in this one…and yeah, I’m really starting to like Payne. I may have to add The Crooked Way to my collection at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Julie Dunning

    This is great Todd and it sounds like a “must-see”! Hopefully soon I will be watching movies like this again. ;o


    • Todd B

      You will be! And you’re going to have fun doing it!


  3. Hi Todd, what a great fast paced expertly written review, just like the film itself. Haha yes indeed Peggie Castle was divine. The flirty smoking scene with Evelyn Keyes was brilliant as well as that theatre moment!! Such a great fun film….. Todd it’s driving me crazy, I can’t seem to follow your film blog. The follow button just doesn’t appear anywhere. I keep trying but I can’t do it. Normally it appears down the the bottom right hand side. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. Very frustrating.


    • It was ad blocker stopping it. Oh my! Sorted 🙂


      • Todd B

        I was about to check out the problem from my end, then spotted this comment..glad you found it, and thanks for joining up! I’ll be stopping by your site to become a follower as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Todd. It had been bugging me for a few months but shrugged it off thinking I was just missing something. Put a query on the wordpress forum and low and behold the adblocker was what it was. Lucky I’m already bald as I sure tried pulling my hair out 🙂


      • Todd B

        I’ll keep that adblocker solution stored in the back of my head, in case I have a similar problem sometime down the road. And seriously, can a werewolf ever actually pull ALL of its hair out?

        Liked by 1 person

      • HAHA I was getting near to trying! But I’d like to think it would’ve grown back by the time I got to my rear end! Yeah the adblocker is a good one to remember if you see anyone else have the same problem. Cheers


      • Todd B

        Cheers back, o hairy one!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Hey Wolfman, thanks for checking out the review, and thanks for the nice comment! Yeah, that Peggie Castle is something else…I think I’d double-cross a guy to get at her, too. And that theater moment really took me by surprise the first time I saw it…but my favorite scene still remains the moment where Payne beats the living hell out of Lambert. Too bad more movies today – like maybe some Pixar offerings – don’t have scenes like that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha “I think I’d double-cross a guy to get at her, too.” ditto lol

        Yes Payne was waiting for that moment to unleash that pent up rage and poor Lambert was the channel he needed. So many great scenes in that film. Your so right, new movies just don’t have that grit. Looking forward to revisiting it again one day.


      • Todd B

        I never grow tired of watching – and re-watching – a good noir film. Or a noir film, period.

        Liked by 1 person

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 232

From the Monolith: 129

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