Call Northside 777 (1948) 3.07/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 70.7
Genre: Film-Noir, Drama
Duration: 112 mins
Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb

Another one of those 20th Century Fox thrillers that were rolled out in an attempt to cash in on the success of the great films-noir of the early forties. Rarely fitting snugly into the noir category, these films were strong on plot but nothing more than solid in the screenplay and direction department. This one is much the same although with James Stewart, Lee J. Cobb, and Richard Conte in the starring roles, the standard enough script was made extra effective. Conte is the blue collar mug sentenced to life for the murder of a police officer but proclaims his innocence. Stewart and Cobb are the investigative reporter and editor respectively who attempt to lift the lid on the case eleven years later only to find evidence of corruption and stonewalling.

Stewart brings his usual five star presence and sharpens it with just enough cynicism to carry the film’s tension square on his shoulders. Alongside him, Cobb and Conte bring a level of professionalism to the film that gives it a personality it might have otherwise struggled to achieve given that Henry Hathaway shot this one with a level or greyness that leaned more towards the traditional noir aesthetic but without the intrigue of shadowy contrasts.

Hathaway was one of Fox’s preferred directors for these films perhaps because he knew how to shoot these stories and generally wasn’t drawn off task by an over commitment to aesthetic. He was solid as a rock. And while Call Northside 777 was competently shot, it still looked every bit the mainstream vehicle. For this reason, there’s a lack of edge to the tenser moments and the film’s overall progression but, as usual in these movies, it’s the story that wins out here. With strong arm police officers and shady witnesses at every turn, sniping lawyers, and even a touching romantic angle, this one has some great fundamentals and they tie together seamlessly. You’ll find yourself fully endeared to Stewart’s mission to clear an innocent man’s name and more than satisfied with the conclusion.

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