Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)

  • The Docks of New York (1928) - Plot Summary - Silent film directed by Josef von Sternberg, all the story taking place over one night. On the New York waterfront docks ("the beginning of many adventures"), strong and masculine Bill Roberts (George Bancroft), with the dirty job of ship stoker, arrives ashore for just one night. While still on the thick fog-laden dock near his ship, Bill happens to see a young woman throwing herself into the dark water and he dives in to rescue her. Bringing her into a nearby wharf bar "The Sandbar", she's brought upstairs and tended to by a fellow blonde woman of - hmm - "loose morals" who hangs there. Bill gets the girl whose life he saved some clothes to replace her wet rags, then coaxes her down into the bar where they bond over their shady pasts and he asks her to marry him - after all, "he'll try anything once" (and she did have a bit of a lust when he shows off his muscled tattooed arm to her, featuring a prominent nude woman tattoo). The other blonde is gung-ho to get some fun going in the already rip-roaring bar, so recruits "Hymn-Book Harry" of the local mission, to marry the two. The crowd of drunken seamen and "loose women" watches as the odd ceremony takes place - cut to the next morning where our not-so-noble Bill leaves his wife that has no name (he just calls her "Baby") to head back to ship. Will this be the end of their oh-so brief marriage?!

    Review - This recent Criterion Collection release features a seriously nice-looking black and white print and a choice of two music scores. I was hard-pressed to choose which score to watch with as I really like both composers, ended up watching with the Robert Israel score which was good (the other score is done by Donald Sosin). I thought the film was pretty good, especially the way it's photographed. Much of the action takes place in the lively, atmospheric waterfront bar - interesting tracking shots help set the scene. Realistic, gritty art direction and scenery, with fog and lots of cigarette smoke wafting through the air (man, do these characters smoke a lot) helps set the mood. I really liked Betty Compson in this, playing the world-weary cynical "girl" to a tea, I don't know if George Bancroft would have been my favorite choice for this role. The actress, Olga Baclanova, who plays the other woman is good too. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

    Director: Josef von Sternberg
    Film Genre: Romantic Melodrama
    Film Runtime: 75 minutes

Links / Resources


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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