Hell on Frisco Bay


1h 38m 1956

Brief Synopsis

A cop framed for a murder he did not commit hunts the San Francisco waterfront for the Mob racketeers who are responsible.

Film Details

Also Known As
Hell on the Dock, The Darkest Hour
Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 28, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Jan 1956
Production Company
Jaguar Productions, Inc.; Ladd Enterprises, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Darkest Hour by William P. McGivern (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In San Francisco, former policeman Steve Rollins is released from San Quentin Prison, after serving a five year sentence for the manslaughter of Donato, a suspect who died shortly after being questioned by Steve. Waiting for Steve at the prison gate is his friend, policeman Dan Bianco, and his wife Marcia, a nightclub singer with whom he has refused all contact since the trial. After refusing to return home with Marcia, Steve tells Dan that he plans to find the men who framed him for the death of Donato. Steve begins by searching for fisherman Frank Ragoni, who contacted him in prison, claiming to know Donato's killer. When Steve looks for Ragoni at the dockyards owned by racketeer Victor Amato, Hammy, one of Amato's thugs, forces him to leave. No one Steve questions, including his parish priest, Monsignor La Rocca, has seen Ragoni recently. After learning that Amato is forcing out the long-time elected dock leader, Lou Fiaschetti, Steve visits the older man and finds him dejected and afraid to discuss Ragoni. After Steve's visit, Lou meets with Amato, but when he mentions Ragoni and Donato, he is "escorted" away, against his will by Hammy. After renting a room in a boarding house, Steve stops by the apartment he once shared with Marcia to pick up his clothes, and accuses her of infidelity. She replies that after three years of not hearing from Steve, she was driven by loneliness into a short-lived affair with a musician at the nightclub where she performs. Although she says that is the only time she has been unfaithful, Steve refuses to forgive her. Their conversation is interrupted by Hammy and Joe Lye, a scar-faced, even-tempered ex-convict who serves as Amato's right-hand man. After ordering Steve to abandon his search for Ragoni, Hammy assaults Steve, but after Steve nearly strangles Hammy, the thugs leave. Later, at Steve's boarding house, Detective Connors, a corrupt policeman who works for Amato, offers Steve a job with the racketeer. When Steve refuses, Connors leaves after mentioning that Ragoni has been found murdered. Steve then questions the widower Sebastian Pasmonick, who is Ragoni's fishing boat partner, but Sebastian will not talk, explaining that he must protect his young son, Georgie. However, Georgie tells Steve that Amato's nephew Mario made special arrangements for fisherman Brodie Evans to work with Ragoni the night he was killed. Believing that Brodie was probably Ragoni's killer, Steve finds the weak-willed Mario at a nightclub and forces him to confirm that he sent Brodie to work with Ragoni. When Lou's dead body is found near the bay, Amato becomes angry at Hammy for killing the dock leader just before an election and fires him. Amato then offers his position to Steve, and when Steve refuses, Amato threatens to kill him if he continues his investigation. Outside his rooming house, Steve finds Dan waiting. While Dan explains that he is trying to convince Lt. Neville, Steve's former boss, to look into Amato's connection with recent killings, Hammy fires at Steve from a parked car. The shot misses, after which Dan shoots back, mortally wounding Hammy. Before dying, Hammy reveals that Brodie is staying with his girlfriend Bessie. When Steve questions Bessie, she claims that she and Brodie broke up. Doubting Bessie's claims that she is no longer in contact with Brodie, Steve follows her when she leaves her apartment and she leads him directly to Brodie. Steve then takes Brodie to the police station and, with Neville's permission, Dan brings in Mario to be questioned alongside Brodie. When Connors tells Amato that the police are holding his men, Amato orders his lawyer to post their bail. Because Amato believes that Mario is unreliable, having talked too much to Steve and to the police, Amato orders Joe to kill him and make it look like suicide. While Joe reluctantly carries out Amato's orders, Amato, tired of his religious wife Anna, whom he calls "a walking rosary," tries to seduce Joe's girlfriend, the former film actress Kay Stanley. When Kay rejects him, Amato slaps her. Joe, who has endured many insults from Amato about his scarred face and relationship with Kay, is deeply offended to learn that Amato abused Kay. He threatens to have Kay tell the police that she overheard Amato order Mario's killing, unless Amato gives him respect and a partnership in the organization. Although he pretends to acquiesce, Amato later orders Connors to kill Joe and Kay. After escaping Connors' attack, Joe sends Kay to Steve's rooming house to tell Steve that Amato ordered Joe to kill Mario and Donato. Although she offers to testify this in court, she fears encountering Connors at the police station, so Steve hides her in Marcia's apartment. Steve then tells the childless Anna, who loved Mario like a son, that Amato had him murdered. Grateful to learn that Mario did not take his own life and therefore can be buried in consecrated ground, Anna tells Steve that her husband is at the dockyard. Steve proceeds to the dockyard alone, but Marcia alerts Dan and then follows him. Joe has also followed Amato and finds him preparing to leave the country. After Amato kills Joe, he finds Marcia outside his office and uses her as a shield while he shoots at Steve. When he runs out of bullets, Amato releases Marcia and runs to a speedboat. Steve swims after him and, after jumping aboard, fights Amato. As they struggle, the boat speeds out of control, and just before it crashes into a lighthouse, Steve knocks Amato into the water and jumps out. Neville, Dan and other policemen then arrive to rescue them and arrest Amato. Confident that Kay's testimony will restore his reputation and career, Steve goes home with Marcia.

Film Details

Also Known As
Hell on the Dock, The Darkest Hour
Genre
Drama
Crime
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 28, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Jan 1956
Production Company
Jaguar Productions, Inc.; Ladd Enterprises, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Darkest Hour by William P. McGivern (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of the film were The Darkest Hour and Hell on the Dock. William P. McGivern's novel,The Darkest Hour, was serialized in Collier's (15 April-13 May 1955). Although his appearance in the film has not been confirmed, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Richard Bellis was in the cast. According to a modern source, Bonnie Lou Williams dubbed the singing voice of Joanne Dru. Much of the film was shot on location throughout San Francisco, CA. Extensive shooting was done in and around the Fisherman's Wharf and San Francisco Bay.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States January 1956

Released in United States Winter January 1956

c Warnercolor

Silent screen star Mae Marsh has a cameo in the film.

CinemaScope

Released in United States January 1956

Released in United States Winter January 1956