One of my favorite early crime movies. It’ll hold your interest from the first minute to the last. Put this on the must see list.
Johnny Damico (Broderick Crawford) is a cop buying a ring for his girlfriend Mary. Out in the street he sees a man shot dead and pulls a gun on the triggerman. With his back turned to him the man tosses Johnny his badge. He’s a police Lieutenant. Damico returns his badge and gun. The Lieutenant goes into a lunch counter to call it in.
Turns out he’s a fake and the dead man is a witness in a cop killing. It all has to do with the rackets at the waterfront. Damico’s bone head play gets him assigned to go undercover on the docks and find the shooter. It’s suspect he’s the racket boss Blackie Clay. A story is given to the papers that he’s been suspended and a phony picture is printed.
Damico shows up at the docks as a minor hood from New Orleans named Tim Flynn. He has an attitude but manages to become friends with longshoreman Tom Clancy (Richard Kiley). He’s also friendly with hotel bartender Smoothie (Matt Crowley). He finally gets a work permit.
A mobster named Tony (John Marley) is hiring a crew for two days work. They have to kick back some money in a phony charity scheme. Tony wants to know how Damico has progressed so quickly and asks if he talked to a man named Joe Castro (Ernest Borgnine). He doesn’t say a word. (Look for Charles Bronson in a quick appearance standing next to Crawford and Kiley).
Damico gets a soft job driving a fork lift. The driver, Culio (Frank DeKova) objects. They meet later and Damico has to knock him down. Culio says he knows things and may start talking.
Coming out of his hotel he’s braced by a man named Gunner (Neville Brand). He tells him, at gunpoint, to get in the car. He’s taken to see Castro. Castro says he doesn’t like his name bandied about. Gunner takes a half hour to go out and gets some beer. When he comes back Damico is let go. Castro says he’s okay. Turns out it’s a frame. Culio’s been murdered with Damico’s gun.
He’s given a hard time by Sgt.Bennion. Word reaches Damico’s boss, Lt.Banks. It’s proven the bullet from Culio’s body doesn’t match Damico’s gun. Lucky for him he did a switch. Damico gets Banks to arrest Gunner for Culio’s murder. The mob thinks Damico knocked him off.
Clancy invites Damico out for the night with two women. He doesn’t know that one is Clancy’s wife and the other his sister. Clancy wants his sister to find out all about this guy Flynn.
To go any further would spoil the fun. Things just keep happening and it makes for a good adaption of the Ferguson Findley story which was a serial in Collier’s magazine.
Frank DeKova played a lot of gangsters but is known to TV fans as Chief Wild Eagle on “F Troop” (1965-67).