One the ship the S.S. Florentine Toni Cardell (K. T. Stevens) stands watch as a man tosses a rubber lifeboat overboard. In the lifeboat is a shipment of Opium. The man is picked up by a motorboat. Two men on the boat take the drugs, kill the man and toss his body overboard.
Toni is the girlfriend of drug dealer Paul Vicola (Yul Brynner). Toni is upset that the man was killed. She knew she was delivering drugs but murder was not part of her plan. Paul is cold about the murder. Toni is beginning to second guess being involved with the whole thing.
When the Customs Department finds that the legitimate shipment of drugs destined for a pharmaceutical company was switched with sand they launch an investigation. In a joint effort, Customs Agent Mickey Waters (Scott Brady) and Agent Jim Flannery (Richard Rober) from the Bureau of Narcotics are assigned to the case. They discover that the ship’s purser is missing, along with the life raft. They finally find the body of the purser floating in the bay.
When Toni decides she wants out she contacts the authorities hoping for a reward. She has a brief meeting with Flannery. Wanting a stake so she can leave town she doesn’t give up much information but agrees to another meeting. In the meantime Vicola believes she is a loose end. He strangles her before she can go through with the second meeting. Since Flannery and Waters know she had planned to catch a train out of town they search the lockers at Penn Station and find some of the drugs. They stake out the place and follow a courier to a comic named Dolly Carney (Arthur Blake). They sweat him out and learn about someone named Leo Stasser (William Challee) who owns North River Yacht. He is the next link in the chain.
Flannery and Waters break into Stasser’s office. Waters is caught and killed. Flannery manages to escape. Now Flannery has more reason to find and stop Mr. Big. To do that he has to go under cover.
“Port of New York” was released in 1949 and was directed by Laszlo Benedek. It is a crime story and a film noir. It is done in the semi-documentary style with television news commentator Chet Huntley narrating. The film is noted for it being Yul Brynner’s first movie and for him having hair. The movie was shot on location in New York City.
I don’t know, perhaps I’ve gotten a little jaded when it comes to noir films. Perhaps “Port of New York” is noir but I’m use to florid dialogue and larger than life characters as well as camera angels that give the impression of convoluted nightmares. This film seemed more like a public service movie. Why drugs are bad and don’t be a drug dealer. It answers such burning questions like; what do the Customs Agency and the Narcotics Agency do? The answers are wrapped up in a story with a moral at the end. It was a good story sure, but noir?
If you want to call it a crime drama with noir-esque touches I’d be OK with that. Don’t get me wrong I liked the movie. The bad guys seemed to be more of the threat to themselves than the Customs agents were. Most of the killings were either done by or ordered by Vicola.
I would have to say that my favorite part of the movie was Yul Brynner himself. He’s the best at cold and calculating and with that deep deadpan Russian accent you know you’re in trouble when he says “Please darling, you must not become a nuisance.” He may be more intimidating bald but even with hair he’s not to be dismissed lightly.