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The Camera Moves #5

Light, shadow, and a moving camera keep Eddie G and company locked up with nowhere to go in the opening of Hugo Fregonese's _Black Tuesday_.
gina telaroli

There are no credits at the opening of Hugo Fregonese's Black Tuesday (1954), just a few shots, one wide and one a medium close-up, that tell very little but give you a moment to settle in. The opening's main sequence, which feels like it’s out of a lost pre-Code film, starts with a prisoner behind bars banging on an object and singing a song.  The camera stays with him a moment before quickly tracking and then panning into the darkness and landing on another prisoner (the always welcome Edward G. Robinson) bathed in shadows and constrained by glowing white bars. The camera stops, the man moves and the camera follows until it's time to find a new prisoner in the same situation.  

There’s no overall sense of the space itself in the sequence, just a seemingly endless parade of men illuminated in the darkness, with nothing to do but pace back and forth.   Exposition or explanation becomes unnecessary as the camera's continual back and forth motion and the continual back and forth motion of the men it’s recording creates an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and dread that's finally echoed by a prisoner's outburst before an unexpected cut to the credits allow us all a quick escape.   


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