Cast & Crew
When a gas station attendant on the Nevada-California highway is killed after recognizing hoodlum Joe Walpo, who is wanted by the FBI, all FBI offices are alerted. In Los Angeles, the case is assigned to agent Zack Stewart, who already is working on a case involving interstate car thefts. He then takes on a case involving a woman named Kate Martel, the victim of an extortionist who is threatening to kill her young daughter unless she hands over insurance money left to her by her husband. Stewart arranges to interview Kate at Ohrbach's department store, where she works as a fashion buyer. When she proves unable to identify the extortionist's voice, he places her house under surveillance and records her phone calls. Stewart's attention is diverted from Kate's case when Brenda Ralles phones and asks for an agent to come to her home late at night. John Ripley, Stewart's boss, accompanies him to the house but Ralles refuses to see them. Stewart then spots someone leaving by the back door and goes after him, but is shot and killed. The Los Angeles police are unable to get any information from Ralles, but keep her under observation. John is assigned all three of Stewart's cases and believes that one of them holds the clue to his killer. John and his partner, Greg Barker, interview Walpo's girl friend, Connie Anderson, who claims to know nothing about his whereabouts. They then visit Julie Angelino, the blind wife of Vince Angelino, a young man arrested for stealing a car. Angelino refuses to reveal the names of the car theft gang that hired him, and John is unable to link Angelino's and Kate's cases to Ralles. When John has lunch with Kate, they are interrupted by Dave Millson, an old friend of her husband, with whom she has recently become acquainted. Later, Millson stops by Kate's apartment, where she lives with her uncle Max and a housekeeper, to collect her for a date. Millson suddenly kisses Kate, but she reacts very coldly. After Ralles's body is found in a disposal drum, the FBI establishes that she was shot by the same gun that killed Stewart. In the hope that she may lead them to Walpo, John tells Connie that they have evidence that he has another girl friend. When Connie leaves her apartment, agents follow her to the subway terminal, where she boards a street car to Glendale and eventually leads John and Barker to the house where Walpo is hiding. John lures Walpo outside and, in a gun battle, shoots and kills him. Later, John learns that Walpo was in Las Vegas the night Stewart was killed. Kate, under John's surveillance, keeps a midnight rendezvous in a cemetery with the extortionist but he fails to appear. The Angelino case develops after Julie is roughed up by an assailant, Matty Pavelich, whom she thinks may be a boxer, as she felt a scar on his face and a cauliflower ear. John traces Pavelich through a gym and confronts him with Angelino, who claims not to know him. However, when John reveals that Pavelich has beaten Julie, Angelino tells all he knows about the car theft racket and reveals that he was in Arizona when Stewart was killed. John is invited to a birthday party for Kate's daughter and the FBI takes the opportunity to get fingerprints from all the guests's glasses, as they suspect the extortionist is someone known to her. Later, the extortionist calls and arranges a new rendezvous and warns her not to involve the FBI. After talking with her housekeeper, Kate withdraws the necessary cash from her bank. However, the bank tips off John and he learns the rendezvous point from the housekeeper. Meanwhile, through the fingerprints and a semantics expert, the extortionist is identified under various aliases. Kate finds a note from the extortionist at the rendezvous spot, telling her to leave the cash at the base of the "W" in the "Hollywood" sign. John and Barker are close behind Kate when she reaches the sign, but she stumbles and the money falls and is blown about. Suddenly, Millson appears and gathers it up. He tells Kate that he never knew her husband and had only posed as a friend, killed Ralles, who knew of his plans, and Stewart. When John and Barker arrive on the scene, Millson grabs Kate, but John shoots at him, scaring him off. Millson attempts to escape in his car but is stopped at a road block. Kate thanks John.
Edward S. Haworth
H. R. Hoffman
Jules V. Levy
Bernard C. Schoenfeld
Down Three Dark Streets
As the movie proper starts, hoodlum Joe Walpo (Joe Bassett) guns down a gas station attendant (William Schallert) on his way to Los Angeles. At FBI Headquarters, Agent Zack Stewart (Kenneth Tobey) is assigned the case. Stewart is a hard-working married man who is also working on two other cases. One of those involves a car theft ring and the questioning of Vince Angelino (Gene Reynolds) in the hopes that he will name the thieves; in the other case, Kate Martell (Ruth Roman) alerts the FBI when she starts receiving phone calls from an extortionist armed with threats against her daughter. Agent John Ripley (Broderick Crawford) is on a call with Agent Stewart when Stewart is shot dead. Ripley is assigned all three of Stewart's open cases in the hopes that his investigations will turn up the killer. Among the colorful characters that Ripley interviews are Walpo's sexy girlfriend Connie (Martha Hyer), Martell's neighbors and acquaintances, and Reynolds' blind wife Julie (Marisa Pavan).
The large cast and interlocking investigations of Down Three Dark Streets are expertly managed by the screenwriters, Bernard C. Schoenfeld and the husband-and-wife team The Gordons (Mildred and Gordon). The Gordons also wrote the source novel, Case File: FBI. It would have been the normal operating procedure at the time to submit any screenplay dealing with the FBI to the Bureau itself for approval. Existing memos indicate that Director J. Edgar Hoover objected that the script was "a blueprint for the crime of extortion. You not only reveal the activities of the criminal, but also reveal the countermeasures taken by the FBI...portrayed in such a way as to make it easier for a future extortionist to avoid apprehension." (Interestingly, Broderick Crawford was to play Hoover himself years later in Larry Cohen's eccentric biopic The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover - 1977).
The Gordons wrote a number of mystery and crime novels, but their most popular book was probably a fantasy called Undercover Cat, which was adapted to film by the Disney Studios as the live-action film, That Darn Cat! (1965), starring Dean Jones. The most accomplished film they were associated with was probably Blake Edwards' Experiment in Terror (1962), a tense thriller starring Glenn Ford and Lee Remick.
Down Three Dark Streets was director Arnold Laven's third feature following several years in the industry as a script supervisor. He directed only a handful of other theatrical films, including the worthwhile crime drama Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957) for Universal and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957), one of the better post-Them! (1954) sci-fi films of the 1950s that featured giant, mutated creatures. From 1960 to 1985 Laven worked almost exclusively in series television, helming numerous episodes of such western and adventure shows as The Rifleman, Mannix, The Rockford Files, and The A-Team.
Broderick Crawford was one of the few film stars of the early 1950s who easily bounced between roles on television (in anthology dramas like Four Star Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars) and prestigious parts on the big screen. The year after appearing in Down Three Dark Streets and in Fritz Lang's Human Desire (1954), Crawford began his long run on the series Highway Patrol (1955-1959), though he continued to appear in features even during the duration of that series.
Executive Producer: Edward Small
Producers: Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy
Director: Arnold Laven
Screenplay: Gordon and Mildred Gordon, Bernard C. Schoenfeld
Music: Paul Sawtell
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Film Editing: Grant Whytock
Production Design: Edward S. Haworth
Makeup: Gustaf Norin
Cast: Broderick Crawford (Agent John Ripley), Ruth Roman (Kate Martell), Martha Hyer (Connie Anderson), Marisa Pavan (Julie Angelino), Kenneth Tobey (Agent Zack Stewart), Gene Reynolds (Vince Angelino).
by John M. Miller
Down Three Dark Streets
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
The film's working title was Case File: FBI. The Gordons was a joint name under which husband and wife Gordon and Mildred Gordon wrote the novel on which this film was based. Together they wrote nineteen books, mostly crime and mystery novels, but their most successful books were probably Undercover Cat and Undercover Cat Prowls Again, the former being the basis for the 1965 Disney film That Darn Cat! (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Gordon Gordon was a former FBI agent.
The file for Down Three Dark Streets in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a letter from FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover stating his objections to a copy of the screenplay submitted for his approval. He particularly objected to the depiction of wire-tapping and complained that the script was "a blueprint for the crime of extortion. You not only reveal the activities of the criminal, but also reveal the countermeasures taken by the FBI...portrayed in such a way as to make it easier for a future extortionist to avoid apprehension." The producers responded that they felt confident they could take care of Hoover's objections. The resolution of this dispute is not clear, but the title was eventually changed from Case File: FBI to its final release title.
Released in United States Fall September 1954
Released in United States Fall September 1954