Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) Review

Director: Frank Tuttle

Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 99 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

After former San Francisco cop Steve Rollins (Alan Ladd) is released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he seeks out those who framed him, putting him on a collision course with mob boss Victor Amato (Edward G. Robinson). This is one of the few films noirs of the 1940s and 1950s to be in color. So, this is a colorful movie in the literal sense, but is it a colorful flick in the figurative sense?

Hell on Frisco Bay is a pretty typical gangster-oriented noir. There are a few moments of cool action, but the picture is ultimately a bit too safe in its conformity to the Production Code that dictated content in Hollywood works of the time. It’s a fairly clean film that doesn’t take any risks. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. I’ve seen much worse.

This production has a lot of characters to keep track of…perhaps too many for what should’ve been a straightforward revenge saga. I wouldn’t use the word “convoluted” to describe it, but it may have been overwritten at times. Alan Ladd plays the stoic-to-the-point-of-stiff hero, while Edward G. Robinson does a role he probably could’ve performed in his sleep by now. There is not much atmosphere for this type of feature.

Hell on Frisco Bay doesn’t quite live up to its explosive title, but it’s a watchable romp into dockside gangland. There’s always the novelty of seeing Ladd and Robinson square off against each other. It has the common courtesy to end on a high note and it’s not boring. You shouldn’t line up around the block to see this one, but, hey, if you see it on T.V., that’d be fine.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

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