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Directed by Rouben Mamoulian


Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney star in City Streets, a gripping classic film noir film about one man’s efforts to save his love from prison. When Nan (Sidney), a mobster’s daughter, falls in love with a shooting gallery showman named The Kid (Cooper), she attempts to persuade him to become a racketeer in order to financially support her lavish lifestyle. Her world is turned upside down when her heartless father implicates her for a murder and is sent to prison. Will joining her father’s gang of racketeers be enough for The Kid to free her and secure a happily ever life together?


Strikingly stylised bootlegging yarn, more romance than gangster movie, said to have been an Al Capone favourite because the gang boss (Lukas), far from rampaging Cagney-style with machine-gun in the streets, is always careful to be seen to have clean hands: all deaths take place discreetly off-screen, and a contract to kill drawn up in an offhand line of dialogue ('I'd be willing to do business with you, if anything happened to Blackie') is equally elliptically sealed when the other party lights his cigar, looks at the match, and then pensively snuffs it out. Mamoulian sometimes over-stresses the visual and aural symbolism he experiments with in support of these ellipses, but creates a wonderfully evocative, low-key atmosphere not dissimilar to Sternberg's Underworld with terrific camerawork from Lee Garmes, and fine performances from Cooper and Sidney as the young lovers enmeshed in the rackets.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


The sophisticated, atmospheric City Streets (1931) is an unjustly forgotten movie full of visual storytelling and expressionistic camerawork. For 1931, a year when movies were still learning to "move" again after the coming of sound, it's an especially impressive achievement, and it boasts the historical footnote of being - apparently - the first American film to use voiceover.

This was director Rouben Mamoulian's second feature. His first, Applause (1929), had been a commercial failure but scored highly with critics -- so highly, in fact, that Mamoulian expected Paramount to offer him another film right away. Yet the studio waited a year to do so, probably because Mamoulian had insisted on an unprecedented one-picture contract for Applause, and Paramount executives wanted to show him who was boss. In the meantime, Mamoulian was certainly no couch potato: he directed five Broadway plays and an opera.

Excerpt from the TCM located HERE


Theatrical Release:  April 17th, 1931

Recently Released Essential Noirs

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DVD Review: Universal 'Vault Series' - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Universal - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:22:51 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.74 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles None

Release Information:
Studio: Universal

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• None

DVD Release Date: September 28th, 2016

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Chapters: 9





City Streets is labelled as a Film Noir on IMDb but it doesn't make out Essential List, although it, pleasingly, carries some 'dark cinema' conventions and is kinda close ( a case could be made!). It has Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney - who I could watch in anything. It's Pre-Code and has some racier elements. It's a little more romance based than 'crime' and frequently reminded me of Gun Crazy or They Live By Night. I was very impressed with City Streets. What a treat to discover!

The disc is, predictably, single-layered and has no menus, or extras, and the transfer is interlaced (see combing in bottom capture.) Aside from that it was surprisingly strong - texture with some contrast layering. Aside from a few, inconsequential, marks it looked solid for SD on my system - far batter than average for the era of film production transferred to SD. Hugre Kudos to cinematographer Lee Garmes (Caught, Duel In The Sun, The Captive City, Man with the Gun) - check out some of those shadows and that lighting! 

The audio is a factor of the production - discernable but scattered. The score is by Karl Hajos (Werewolf of London, Summer Storm) and Ralph Rainger (1932's A Farewell to Arms) and does a good job of exporting support for the film's young-romance and non-conformist moods. There are no subtitles and the media is locked to region FREE.

The film has enough Noir and Pre-Code appeal to be judged only on that basis - but, I'm telling you, this is a very good film! It was a brilliant surprise for me... and I continue to love the leads - in anything. Absolutely recommended even at the exorbitant MoD pricing. If it's any solace - revel in your uniqueness in owning such a film on digital media!  

Gary Tooze


Screen Captures







































Combing from interlaced transfer


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Distribution Universal - Region 0 - NTSC
Recently Released Essential Noirs

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