The Frightened City (1961): Breakdown by Kain424
A mob enforcer learns that crime doesn’t pay when his cohorts betray him.
The Frightened City is an undiscovered gem of a film. Filmed in Britain, and before its star would go on, a year later, to assist in the creation of the modern Action flick, it is still full of witty dialog, clever characterization, and classy acting. Also of note is the music, written by Norrie Paramour, which almost has a Morricone feel. Connery, who was a minor character in Action Of The Tiger, shares the screen with other actors from the same film including Herbert Lom (who played Trifon) and Yvonne Romain, who is now a leading lady. On an interesting side-note, Romain’s husband, Leslie Bricusse, wrote the lyrics for the theme songs in Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.
The story is a complex one following three main characters. The first is an accountant/adviser and part-time money launderer who discreetly takes over a mob syndicate, uniting multiple gangs under one banner. The second story follows a mob enforcer put in charge of collecting protection fees and providing the newly paid-for protection. The final story, the throughline for the whole film, is about a hard-working Scotland yard detective trying to uncover the whole racket and bring it down.
There is a distinct political message running throughout. One lamenting search procedures and the rights of suspects. In the next decade, an entire genre would spring out of such concerns (notably starting with Dirty Harry). Strangely, the police never act on their discontent, preferring to stay, against all adversity, on the right side of the law. Pussies. This gives them plenty of time to bathe in the spotlight of heroism, and despite the sympathy inherent in Connery’s story, it’s the police the film ultimately sides with.
The Frightened City remains a movie that refuses to be easily categorized. Our film’s hero is a former thief and convict, only working for the mob to pay for his brother’s disability. He has a code of honor he follows at all times, usually in non-violent fashion. Still, we get to see his character get tainted from the company he keeps and lose his way in all his success. The tale of gray morality makes the movie unique for its time. And though the Action isn’t heavy and the film will forever be dated by it’s style, it’s still a pretty decent thriller. If you can find it, check it out.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Sean Connery is Patrick “Paddy” Damion
“Tough but intelligent.”
Connery plays the part with a natural ease, especially with the ladies. The previously mentioned mob enforcer, he’s hard-edged, but there is an intelligence about him that’s difficult to deny. His character is easily likable and at once sympathetic. Connery’s portrayal assists in this endeavor and is most effective. We get to see him use his physicality a lot here, looming over most other people and climbing buildings.
That being said, once the guy becomes powerful, he sort of becomes a douche.
Herbert Lom is Waldo Zhernikov
Speaking of ease, this guy manages a level of cool I didn’t think was possible, especially after seeing him in Action Of The Tiger. A testament to Lom’s ability as an actor, Zhernikov is the polar opposite of Trifon, being a calm, calculating manipulator. He is the man behind the curtain, a self-assured con-man with a room full of antique armor and an expensive cigarette in his hand. Zhernikov is the smartest man in the room, and he knows it.
John Gregson is Detective Sayers
Sayers is the film’s heart and also its comic relief. He gets almost all the best lines, preferring large wordy dialogues about the futile attempts for justice and means of getting there. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor that keeps him from losing his cool, but when he finally does he makes you feel his frustration. If Connery weren’t in the film, this guy would’ve been the one to watch.
[THE BODY COUNT: 3, Maybe More]
Despite the movie containing guns, grenades, and guys with axes and knives, I could only confirm three actual kills. One poor, unnamed man gets run down by an automobile as the film opens while another is shot to death in a gym’s changing room. There were scenes of violent beatdowns (mostly occurring offscreen), but I couldn’t tell if they resulted in deaths.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Damion vs. Foulcher and Zhernikov
Connery fights the film’s two primary villains at once, using fists and furniture. Far more athletic than his foes, Connery basically beats them both into submission before Foulcher gets hold of a morning star on display in Zhernikov’s showroom. He then goes on the offensive, swinging wildly while insulting Damion and moving toward a gun. That is, until Damion kicks a desk into him, sending Foulcher back into a wall, pinning him onto a spiked shield on display.
I think he got the point.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
There is a dance instructor who seems pretty effeminate, but it’s never said for sure.
However, I would like to point out that Connery’s character spends his spare time in a gym practicing Judo, while sweaty men lift weights and stare. That’s pretty ghey if you ask me. Oh, and the main villain’s name is Waldo.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
“Sex is a wonderful thing for business.”
Zhernikov holds his meetings down at a club which is essentially a titty-bar for upper class Englishmen. There are subtle hints throughout the film that there is a bit of prostitution going on behind the scenes, but no one ever comes right out and says it.
But by far the worst crime committed against a woman in this film is something Sean does to his girlfriend character. After becoming somewhat enamored with Yvonne Romain’s character of Anya, he still has his girlfriend set up a Christmas party at his pad. She cooks all the food and likely sets up the decorations as well. During the party, he completely ignores her and ends up banging Anya. Super douche!
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The film’s epic moment occurs after Paddy Damion is hired to run the ground operations for Zhernikov’s mob syndicate. In a montage sequence similar to that of the “Push It To The Limit” one in 1983’s Scarface, Connery and his lackeys go place to place collecting large sums of protection money. It’s pretty cool.
Earlier in the film, Connery’s lower-class thug tries to impress Zhernikov on their first meeting. He attempts to use a phrase, explaining perspiration, with large words but ultimately bungles the sentence.
Zhernikov tells him, “You suffer from the taint of gentility, Mr. Damion. The word is sweat.”
Later, after Damion has made Zhernikov call over the murderer of Connery’s friend, his actions are questioned, giving him the opportunity to paraphrase the mobster.
Zhernikov: “How would it advantage you ta expose yourself to the charge of you having, um, eliminated him?”
Damion: “You suffer from the taint of gentility, Mr. Zhernikov. The word is murdered.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
“What we want are laws designed to catch villains and not hamper the police.”
[THE CHECKLIST: 10 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[X] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice