Vince Ryker has escaped from San Quentin with a steel canister of what he believes is pure uncut heroin; in fact, it contains a dangerous isotope: cobalt-60. Background information as to the origin of the canister is left somewhat vague by screenwriters Robert Dillon and Steven Ritch, but that hardly matters. As the police close in on Ryker and his world begins to shrink, City of Fear morphs into a sweaty portrait of a self-destructive character betrayed by a symbol of his own tendencies. Ryker believes that the canister of “heroin” is going to make him a rich and powerful man; in fact, its real contents will do just the opposite. The film explores a fascinating idea: that something we may believe to be our saving grace may turn out to be our undoing.
The intense lead performance by Edwards is helped by the incredibly economical direction of Irving Lerner and a propulsive musical score by Jerry Goldsmith – his second feature film credit. (Schlock buffs will thrill to see Lyle Talbot as the police chief; that same year, 1959, Talbot also appeared in Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s Plan 9 from Outer Space.) City of Fear is a great example of Cold War noir, ratcheting up the paranoia throughout, until the inevitable existential conclusion. —DVDtalk.com
Irving Lerner (7 March 1909, New York City – 25 December 1976, Los Angeles)
Before becoming a filmmaker, Lerner was a research editor for Columbia University’s Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, getting his start in film by making documentaries for the anthropology department. In the early 1930s, he was a member of the Workers Film and Photo League, and later, Frontier Films. He made films for the Rockefeller Foundation and other academic institutions, becoming a film editor and second-unit director involved with the emerging American documentary movement of the late 1930s. Lerner produced two documentaries for the Office of War Information during WW II and after the war became the head of New York University’s Educational Film Institute. In 1948, Lerner and Joseph Strick shared directorial chores on a short documentary, Muscle Beach. Lerner then turned to low-budget, quickly filmed features. When not hastily making his own thrillers, Lerner worked as a technical advisor, a second… read more
This film was influenced by the '50's hysteria over WMD'S & biological weapons but let's not overlook the intentions of the escaped convict. He thinks he has a million dollars worth of heroin to sell. In retrospect, what has been the greater danger and evil to this country? The cops and government fuss over the cobalt, but would they react the same way to a lethal and damaging narcotic? The convict knows it value.
Above average film noir that reminded me a lot of Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950). Great musical score by Jerry Goldsmith and an interesting warning against the harmful effects of Cobalt 60 in granules. If you ever have to lay hands on such a product, I urge you to call right away the nearest police station. I love informative movies. Highly recommended.
A more direct, if some what less articulate, depiction of the same fear that lingers through out "Kiss Me Deadly". Not simply a film about fear of Atomic death but a film about the hubris we display in our flirtations with death. In this film, we move towards something both inevitable and final. A good reunion of director Irving Lerner and star Vince Edwards from "Murder By Contract" fame.