For the Love of Film (Noir): No Way Out (1950)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Dr. Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) has just finished his internship and passed the state licensing exam, officially making him the first full-fledged black doctor in the city. However, still feeling a bit wet behind the ears, he decides to spend an extra year training in the hospital prison ward under the tutelage of Dr. Dan Wharton (Stephen McNally). This proves to be his downfall when he is forced to treat two would-be burglars, Ray Biddle (Richard Widmark) and his brother Johnny, both shot in the leg trying to rob a gas station. They’re from the poor side of town, Beaver Canal, and Ray doesn’t take kindly at all to being treated by a black doctor. But Dr. Brooks suspects there’s something besides a superficial gunshot wound to Johnny’s symptoms. Brooks attempts a spinal tap on Johnny, suspecting he may have a brain tumor, while Ray screams at the doctor to stop killing his brother. When Johnny dies during the procedure, Dr. Brooks needs an autopsy to determine if he really did have a brain tumor – or if Brooks inadvertently let Ray’s racist epithets get to him and did in fact kill Johnny with the spinal tap. Knowing the autopsy could prove Dr. Brooks’ innocence, Ray as next of kin refuses to allow the procedure. Drs. Brooks and Wharton must appeal to Johnny’s ex-wife Edie (Linda Darnell) to convince Ray to change his mind. But is she prepared to deny everything she was taught in Beaver Canal to give a black man a fair chance at justice? Is it even possible to sway Ray’s racist reasoning?

This is an official entry in the prestigious For the Love of Film (Noir) film preservation blogathon, benefiting the marvelous Film Noir Foundation. Between February 14-21, over a hundred bloggers are banding together to show their appreciation of the noir genre and to help raise funds to restore the 1950 film The Sound of Fury. To read more about this incredible effort, including details on the film we are working to save and the lovely raffle prizes(!) you could win from donating, click the image at left. MORE IMPORTANTLY: to make a donation to this very worthy cause, either CLICK HERE or on the ENORMOUS donate button I’ve put at the bottom of this post.

First of all, huge apologies for being M.I.A. the past few weeks and posting my contribution to this wonderful blogathon at the last possible second. I have been a baaad little blogger, and there’s really no excuse, so I’d rather not waste time trying to explain and just jump right into this review. I’m not too experienced in the ways of film noir – as is evidenced by my first noir review, where I’m positively shocked by the film’s pessimistic outlook on life! – but the first time I heard about this blogathon, I knew I had to participate. I thoroughly enjoyed my first blogathon just a month ago and was eager to contribute to another, especially one supporting the noble cause of film preservation. Because, if the purpose of this fundraiser is to preserve the noir genre and keep it from dying out – well, then, I’m one of the main beneficiaries, aren’t I? I am new to noir and still learning; it’s only natural that I’d want to help preserve this unique period in cinema history so that I can continue to have examples, both classic and obscure, to learn from. I don’t want to just read about noir in books, I want to be able to see it and feel it, so that I can learn directly from the source, make my own observations, and let noir affect me the way it affected audiences when it was originally released, feel for myself that unsettling and foreboding atmosphere that made it a unique genre (or at least a unique style, if you want to debate the genre aspects). Think of the example of silent film: sure, we film nerds love ’em, but how many laypeople know the first thing about early cinema, or indeed have any interest in knowing? So few of our silent films are left to learn from, which leads to a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy: if we don’t have examples, we can’t learn from them, and if we haven’t learned from them, we don’t care enough to preserve what’s left of the examples. For the good of cinema, and for the good of education and entertainment, film preservation is indeed noble work. (more…)