Down Three Dark Streets, released by United Artists in 1954, is a noir-tinged police procedural with an intriguing structural twist.
FBI Agent Zack Stewart (Kenneth Tobey) is working on three cases simultaneously, a normal enough procedure. The three cases are not connected but a connection will be formed, a connection that will lead to murder. In fact, to two murders. Fellow FBI Agent “Rip” Ripley (Broderick Crawford) will have to find the connection.
One case involves a violent criminal on the run. Joe Walpo (Joe Bassett) has a long record and it is purely by chance that the Bureau gets a lead on his possible whereabouts. That lead doesn’t work out but it seems possible that Walpo’s girlfriend, a cheap blonde named Connie Anderson (Martha Hyer), might provide them with the break they need.
The third is a case of extortion that could lead to kidnapping. Someone is threatening Kate Martell (Ruth Roman), demanding the insurance money her late husband left her. The threat is that her child will be killed if she doesn’t pay the money.
A shoot-out in a dark alley leads to tragedy, leaving Agent Ripley with the task of tying the threads together. It is possible that only one of the three cases is linked to the murder. A second murder seems to close off the one lead that may have provided the link.
This is a sympathetic role for Broderick Crawford. Ripley is a quietly efficient investigator who is undismayed by setbacks. It’s a solid and nicely understated performance. Ruth Roman does well and the supporting players do all that is required of them. Martha Hyer is the standout here in the closest this movie has to a femme fatale role.
There are some action scenes and they’re done particularly well. They provide the most obviously noir moments of the film. The stalking of a suspect in a lonely cabin is a highlight. There’s nothing flashy about these scenes but they’re suitably tense.
The made-on-demand DVD from the MGM Limited Edition series offers a good transfer although it is somewhat unfortunately presented in an open-matte format (the original aspect ratio being 1.75:1). There are no extras.
Down Three Dark Streets provides plenty of entertainment and scores extra points for carrying off its unusual structure surprisingly successfully. A fine police procedural, highly recommended.