The FBI, really cool, man.
The House on 92nd Street is directed by Henry Hathaway with a screenplay co-written by Jack Moffitt, Barré Lyndon and John Monks Jr, adapted from a story by Charles G. Booth. It stars William Eythe, Lloyd Nolan, Signe Hasso, Gene Lockhart and Leo G. Carroll. Music is by David Buttolph and photography Norbert Brodine.
“This story is adapted from cases in the espionage files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Produced with the F.B.I.’s complete co-operation, it could not be made public until the first Atomic Bomb was dropped on Japan”
Thought to be based around the FBI’s real life Duquesne Spy Ring case of 1941/42, where 33 Nazi spies were captured and sentenced to more than 300 years in prison, The House on 92nd Street is undoubtedly a historically interesting artifact of note. It’s also a film whose influence on the sub-genre of semi-documentary crime film’s is not in question, in fact, it can be held up as the forerunner of film’s such as The Naked City. Yet watching it now it just comes across as an advertisement for how good the FBI are, while the effects used are archaic and extremely hard to get excited about. The acting, too, is pretty average at best, where no amount of arguing that it adds realism can account for some plainly delivered set-ups. One or two intriguing moments aside, it’s a basically executed film set around a very good story. While film noir fans should be aware that although it’s frequently mentioned as part of the film noir universe, it’s really not very noir at all.
A semi-sequel called The Street with No Name followed in 1948, with Lloyd Nolan reprising his role as Inspector Briggs, and that itself was reworked into House of Bamboo in 1955, where the setting was Tokyo. Both of these film’s are considerably better than Hathaway’s FBI propaganda piece. 4/10