Rumble on the Docks Blu-ray Review


Not a prequel to Rumble in the Bronx

James Darren’s first role came as Jimmy Smigelski, a poor kid joining a street gang for a sense of belonging. Rumble on the Docks offers its share of fights and action, yet its somber side captures that snapshot of post-war, early baby boomer tensions. Smigelski’s father suffers from a broken back, chastising his son for not being man enough like him. The injury came from local mob bosses, and it’s not difficult to see a placeholder for war wounds. That pent-up anger is spread to his kid; that kid lashes out. Repeat cycle.

Smilgeski feels judged – he’s not fighting on a battlefield and feels inferior. Hence, a local mob gives him purpose, turning him toward adulthood with the influence of guns and their projection of tough guy masculinity. The shattered, poor family from (literally) the other side of the docks loses their only son to organized crime. Consider baby boomers and how their parent’s war experience shaped them. Rumble on the Docks captures that social impact.

Likely to appease censors from those scenes of “authentic and terrifying… juvenile delinquency” (as noted on marketing material), Rumble on the Docks provides solutions. Smilgeski’s girlfriend pushes him to attend church; so does a reform school teacher. Then local union workers offer the gang summer work. The good ones take it.

Adults wrote the kid’s dialog, the slang likely dated at the time of release

Wanting to exploit an angst-laden teen audience while doing social good, Colombia saw the potential market. Their cheapie feature is a morality play in action, corny by today’s standards. Adults wrote the kid’s dialog, the slang likely dated at the time of release.

It’s a story of two gangs. On one side, the Diggers (Smilgeski’s choice) and the Stompers. The thin script draws the Stompers as perfect villains. While Diggers speak with adults, go to school dances, and confide in friends, the Stompers attack at will. There’s no empathy. They take the role of artificial boogeymen. The fix for family ills is listening to your parents, a hard days work, and church. Fifties-era censors surely loved that.

Rumble on the Docks ends too cleanly. Happy, cheerful. Ignore the beginnings of poverty and inner city violence. Forgive the abuse, physical and emotional. Ignore the lingering resentment and mental toll. The solution is simple, old-fashioned American values Get to church. Work manual labor. These problems solve themselves.

If only things were that easy.

Video

Chronologically the final movie in Mill Creek’s Noir Archive 2, Rumble on the Docks pairs with two others on the same disc. As with every film in this package, compression becomes a hindrance. Grain becomes the deciding factor of this transfer, at least what grain is still there. Most of it turned into compression blocks during the transfer.

The end result is a rough and edgy presentation. Some lacking gray scale (more on the day-for-night shots than this master, most likely) introduces heavy blocking in shadows. A small moment between Darren and on-screen girlfriend Laurie Carroll on a park bench swarms with chunky digital artifacts.

Visible in the master is fair resolution, able to squeeze out fidelity even when facing this encode. Facial definition pops in close. Even some city views display sharpness. Although the print suffers from scratches and dirt, none of this bothers the end quality, which is a middling modern catalog effort.

Audio

One of the cleaner tracks of this set, scoring finds some sterling highs and pure lows, limited in distortion. It’s audibly an analog source, preserved well and presented uncompressed in DTS-HD.

Dialog work presents as organic and audible.

Extras

Nothing.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Rumble on the Docks
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

While dated and often corny, Rumble on the Docks digs into the root cause of teen rebellion while still exploiting it for profit.

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