The Phenix City Story

Director: Phil Karlson
Year Released: 1955
Rating: 2.5

Hysteria-du-jour from Alabama has chain-smoking crooks rigging gambling machines and peddling all sorts of heinous sleaze (!) to the GIs from nearby Fort Benning - when lawyers Albert Patterson (John McIntire) and his son John (Richard Kiley) step in to try to restore order, a black girl gets murdered and chucked in a yard and random people get beaten up and killed. The picture begins awkwardly with documentary footage of the actual people involved in the (quite real) drama that took place in Phenix City, but they seem so calm and collected that when the movie goes into its heavy amounts of sensationalism, the incongruence is irksome. Plays fast and free with the facts, too, suggesting racial harmony among the 'good people,' when it was an established fact that the Pattersons (the 'good' guys) were, in all actuality, bigots. It has plenty going for it - location, cruddy atmosphere, timeliness (it was shot around the time the corruption was being dealt with) - but I prefer the noirs that don't claim to be 'based on truth.'