Now that 1954’s On the Waterfront blew the doors off of organized crime running the docks of New Jersey, that central theme is transferred to the coastal waters of New Orleans with Arthur Franz taking the lead role of this “B” picture from Columbia, the same studio that released the Kazan/Brando classic. Like the Oscar winning film of ’54, this Sam Katzman production went on location to get an authentic feel captured by director William Castle’s camera.
The film kicks off with Arthur Franz arriving in New Orleans unaware of the crime infested docks overseen by mobster Michael Ansara and policed by his chief thugs, Frank Ray Perilli and the always welcome, Mike Mazurki. On the topic of Big Mike, I’d lay a wager that no matter how mean he appears on screen he was likely a big hearted teddy bear off camera who wouldn’t dare cause harm to anyone. Just saying…..
Franz is looking to buy his own boat and transport goods as an owner/operator. He buys a derelict boat but will need to earn some cash to live on and restore the boat to working condition. It’s on the docks he’ll soon learn that crime is abundant. If you want to work you’ll need to turn a blind eye when necessary to goods and shipments being stolen by Ansara’s organization. Fortunately he’s taken in by William Henry as a dock foreman and his wife Beverly Garland to learn the rules of the trade and all the nightly hot spots like the real life Diamond Jim Moran’s.
Turns out Franz can handle himself around the docks with a right hook that catches the eye of Miss Helene Stanton. She likes what she sees in the newbie and he of course is receptive to her many charms but there’s one major hurdle, she’s Ansara’s gal and off limits. The crime quotient is about to go up a notch in this black and white thriller I found on the Noir Archive Volume 2 blu ray set from Mill Creek / VCI when Henry tells Ansara he wants out from under his control and to run his own boat. Sure, no problem. Or is it?
Ansara wants no loose ends and if someone who knows too much wants out of the organization …. well, that’s what Big Mike and Perilli are for. Yes Miss Garland is about to be widowed in short order. Needing a new man to take the foreman’s position, Ansara turns to Franz who has shown he has some “true grit” around the docks and warehouses. Garland and a couple of other characters in the film believe Franz …. aka The Monster on the Campus (1957) for you fans of the classic Universal-International sci-fi era , has sold out to the criminal element in the story scripted by Orville H. Hampton. Not too familiar with Hampton’s work myself but after a quick check I learned he worked on numerous genre pictures and television from 1950 thru to 1983. Movie credits include Hong Kong Confidential and The Alligator People to TV fare like Perry Mason and Fantasy Island.
Won’t take long before Franz figures the stolen cargo ends up sold on the black market while Ansara doubles up with phony insurance claims. All it’s going to take is one more killing and Franz is ready to go Brando on these thugs. And yes that does include Franz delivering a K.O. punch to Big Mike. SERIOUSLY! I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. Comparatively that’s like me knocking out Dwayne Johnson with one well placed punch. I hear yah, not likely.
Getting back to the movie there’s sure to be a shootout, cops making arrests and might Miss Garland be looking for a new hubby? You figure it out.
Having always been a fan of classic country music, did you pick out the Hank Williams reference? It comes when Franz is offered some Jambalaya for dinner. His response? “I always thought that was the name of a song.” And right he was. Written and recorded by Hank Williams back in 1952. Just another of Hank’s classic songs that still live on today. Useless trivia? Probably but one never knows what answers are going to show up on TV’s Jeopardy.
Arthur Franz (1920-2006) was by this time well versed in most any genre the studios had thrown his way. He’d appeared in war films (Sands of Iwo Jima), traveled in space (Flight to Mars) and notably took on Invaders From Mars in the 1953 standard. He even played the Invisible Man when Bud and Lou got in on the action of meeting the Universal stable of monsters. From the 1950’s onward, Franz, surely guested on most every TV show in production up through to the mid 70’s.
Beverly Garland could herself be called one of the earliest “scream queens” of movies appearing in low budget horror and sci-fi classics many love to revisit including The Alligator People, It Conquered the World and Not of This World. I bring both Franz and Miss Garland up due to the fact that my introduction to them was because I loved those horror flicks as a kid. Much like the director, William Castle. I’d always thought he just directed horror and scare fests, totally unaware that he helmed scores of low budget westerns, noirs and outdoor adventures before he marketed himself as a Hitchcock like personality in the late 50’s through the 60’s.
Where New Orleans Uncensored is concerned, if you like the double bill “B” pictures of yesteryear you could do a whole lot worse than grabbing that box set of 9 Noir titles. Enjoy.