Review: No Way Out

Blu-ray & DVD: No Way Out (1950)

In No Way Out (his first film), Sidney Poitier plays Dr Luther Brooks, and from the beginning you can see this 23 year old actor was already something special.

It’s the story of a young black doctor intern’s struggle against the racial prejudice he meets in his life and especially as a doctor in his work. It does veer a little towards melodrama (the Director Joseph Mankiewicz also directed All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer and Guys and Dolls), but racism is at the front. Portrayed as institutionalised prejudice amongst white poor people, fortunately the ‘white’ cast are good enough to carry it off and deliver an emotionally intense and harrowing depiction of race hatred.

A young (and handsome) Richard Widmark as the wheedling, criminal bigot is searing and he dominates all his scenes. It is still shocking to hear the ‘N’ word spill out of his mouth constantly, and he does it with real venom. Stephen McNally as the chief resident of a city hospital and Poitier’s mentor is a solid middle class ‘everyman, decent’ American. But for me the film’s acting plaudits must go to the beguiling Linda Darnell as the divorced wife of Widmark’s brother in crime. All hurt and spikey.

‘No Way Out’ is in effect a noir revolving around the recurring noir motif of entrapment, and in this movie we have this woven into the three main strands of story: the young doctor struggling to find a way to save his career after he is accused of killing Widmark’s brother during a spinal tap procedure, Widmark trapped within his own paranoid bigotry, and Darnell in the face of Widmark’s murderous manipulation, desperately trying to move away from her awful past.

Of course Poitier’s struggle is the stuff of melodrama with his salvation assured, and Widmark’s criminal is mentally unhinged and full of hate, but even he in his pain-addled rantings at the climax is given a short redemption, his fate in the hands of Poitier sadistically applying a tightening tourniquet around Widmark’s bleeding leg, wanting to make him suffer while saving him.

Perhaps  Darnell’s redemption is the most interesting, a white woman  redeemed by being a decent human, who is shown a path to a life of decency free of prejudice and self-loathing by and the uncredited black actress Amanda Randolph as McNally’s housekeeper. Amazing really, in a film about racism one of the most important actors not even credited!

A great movie and a great noir.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD
  • LPCM mono soundtrack (Uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller
  • ALL ABOUT MANKIEWICZ [103 minutes] – A massive two-part interview with the legendary director, featuring Michael Ciment and directed by Luc Béraud
  • Archival Fox Movietone Newsreels
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Glenn Kenny

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Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Eureka Entertainment.