Incident in an Alley
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on on-demand DVD from the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
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Incident in an Alley is a really good low budget affair and is a fine example of many forgotten genres of American cinema. Based off of a short story by the great Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone), we follow Bill Joddy (Chris Warfield), a beat cop that accidentally shoots a young boy in an alley after mistaking him for a thief. Joddy is plagued by his thoughts of killing this child by accident, whilst having to go to trial to prove his innocence. With the press having their way with him and his wife standing right by his side, Joddy must endure in the face of the public, as well as confront the teenage hoodlums that created the problem.
The film plays out fairly stereotypically, in terms of the plot but does a fantastic job with the intense subject matter. Another interesting element of the film is the amalgamation of many genres to tell the story. The juvinile delinquent film was a big genre in the 40’s and 50’s and Incident takes some of the stereotypical youth from those films and creates them as the protagonists. Film Noir had already ended by the time Incident was released but it uses one of the key elements that define that style, lighting. Cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton uses many elements of film noir style lighting to reflect the dark despair of Joddy’s psyche and makes the audience feel how he’s been pulled into a dark place through the course of his actions. The final genre trope that Incident straddles is the police procedural. The final half of the film has Joddy trying to figure out why Harvey Connell was there in the first place. All of these elements of film style help propel Incident in an Alley forward, while the plot zips from A to B.
Director Edward Cahn works with the actors well to pull off believable performances, but none of them truly give way to the weight of the subject matter. Due to something like this, its easy to see why a film like Incident in an Alley has been a lost gem in the United Artist catalog of films. As a part of MGM’s Limited Edition, Incident in an Alley looks pretty good visually but the only real downfall of this release is the audio. The soundtrack is full of a lot of noise, the dialog and music are pretty clear, but when those elements disappear for a moment, we hear just a ton of noise in the mono track.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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