(Southside 1-1000 is the third in a series of four film noir titles I recently purchased from Warner Archive. I previously discussed Riffraff  and The Threat . Look for a review of Out of the Fog , the final film in this set, very soon.)
Southside 1-1000 (1950)
Directed by Boris Ingster
Produced by Frank King, Maurice King
Screenplay by Boris Ingster, Leo Townsend
Based on a story by Bert C. Brown, Milton M. Raison
Cinematography by Russell Harlan
Edited by Christian Nyby
Warner Archive DVD/MOD (1:13)
The King Brothers’ masterpiece, Gun Crazy (1950)
The list of movies King Brothers Productions planned to make but didn’t is nearly as long as the ones they did produce, and of those films, I’d love to see them all. (And if there’s a King Brothers biography out there [I can’t find one], I’d certainly buy it.) For nearly 20 years, the King Brothers broke all the rules, employing blacklisted writers in the 1940s and 50s, publicly trading their company, and creating several good films including one masterpiece, Gun Crazy (1950). Southside 1-1000 was the first film the King Brothers made after Gun Crazy and while it’s not in the same league with that film (What film is?), it’s definitely worth a look, especially for film noir fans.
Seasoned noir fans will no doubt groan at the film’s opening: a pseudo-documentary style voiceover introduction that had been “popular” for a few years (T-Men, Call Northside 777, He Walked by Night, Boomerang, The Street with No Name, etc.) and was running on fumes by the time Southside 1-1000 rolled around. Once we get past the obligatory “Counterfeiters are a threat to the Treasury Department and America” public service announcement, we’re able to settle down to a pretty compelling (albeit familiar) story.
Eugene Deane (Morris Ankrum, left) is model prisoner, eagerly studying his Bible every day. But Deane is no theologian: he’s a master counterfeiter running an operation from his jail cell with the help of a clueless prison chaplain (Douglas Spencer).
Once the phony ten-dollar bills start circulating, Treasury Agent John Riggs (Don DeFore) tracks the bills to Deane, but Deane won’t talk about his outside contacts or how the fake money is printed and distributed. Riggs offers leniency to the counterfeiter, but Deane knows he’s going to die soon anyway, so what’s the use of cooperating?
Riggs finds a low-level thug who’s part of the operation and drafts him into finding the outfit’s middleman (Barry Kelley). In one of the most unlikely parts of the film, Riggs forces the thug to accompany him to every major sporting event in the city to finger the operation’s middleman. (There’s another very unlikely event later in the film involving the transference of a prisoner.)
Logic may not be the film’s strong point, but DeFor is quite good as the Treasury agent, especially when he goes undercover to try to infiltrate the outfit.
The normally goofy George Tobias (right), most famous for his role as the dopey Abner Kravitz on the TV show Bewitched, is downright frightening during a scene in a high-rise office building.
But the most interesting performance comes from Andrea King as Nora, a hotel manager who takes a liking to Riggs (working undercover as a wanted gambler). Like all good femmes fatale, Nora has something up her sleeve besides her arm.
SOuthside 1-1000 (the telephone number for police headquarters) certainly has its faults (including some really odd closing credits music), but is certainly worth 73 minutes of your time.
Photos: Cracked Rear Viewer, Mubi, DVD Talk, RareFilm, DVD Beaver