The Elements of Film Noir
99 River Street out on Blu-Ray
The little known 99 River Street is a case study in film noir. The 1953 movie has all the requisite elements: it’s set within a single night on the rain-slicked streets of a big city; double crosses lead to triple crosses; a protagonist is drawn into a labyrinth of deceit; shadows loom.
99 River Street stars John Payne as Ernie, an ex-prize fighter reduced to driving a cab on the night shift. Writing him off a loser, his wife prepares to leave him for Rawlins, a handsome criminal, unaware that her new boyfriend is killer (and never suspecting she will become his victim). Rawlins frames Ernie for her murder, sending the cabbie into a dangerous underworld to clear his name. The cops are on his tail, but his fellow cabbies have his back. Meanwhile, a criminal gang defrauded by Rawlins is chasing the killer and will use Ernie as the tool to find him.
99 River Street is sharply written, directed by Phil Karlson (who had a hit in 1973 with Walking Tall) without a wasted minute. In the annals of noir, 99 receives a score of 100.