No Way Out Joseph L. Mankiewicz

As problem pictures go, No Way Out is pretty solid, potent, on-issue and somewhat less concerned with absolving whitey than other films of its ilk. Sidney Poitier debuts as a newly minted doctor whose first patient dies under his care. Unfortunately for him, that patient is a stick-up man with a racist brother (Richard Widmark) who insists that the good doctor murdered him. As the county doesn't insist on an autopsy that might clear our hero, Widmark is encouraged in doing his trademark giggling-sociopath routine and sends a message back to his destitute neighbourhood that revenge is in order. Trapped between the two sides is the deceased man's ex-wife (Linda Darnell), who gives in to bigotry only to be horrified by the resulting race riot. There are, of course, the convenient outs for the white audience, particularly a paternal doctor and an "all men are brothers" sort of ending. But for 1950, this is pretty harsh stuff, and despite some stilted dialogue it holds up well. The cast is uniformly excellent (featuring the film debut of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee), but Darnell is especially impressive as the conflicted woman who hates where she's come from but feels sufficient loyalty to be manipulated. Though it could be argued that this plot thread distracts from the main event of Poitier's plight (and that would be arguing correctly), the film paints a better picture of ingrained racism than a four-star bore like Gentleman's Agreement. Extras on the Fox Film Noir title include a commentary by noir expert Eddie Muller that's vivid but a little joke-y, two contemporary newsreels involving Darnell and Widmark, and picture galleries. (Fox)