Laundry Laundering

Marketing materials for Case Against Brooklyn demean cops. It’s rare for the time. Bold proclamations like “Is this cop for sale?” and semi-protective “This film isn’t anti-cop, it’s anti-crooked cop!” build intrigue. Case Against Brooklyn came from headlines, based in truth of a horse racing bookie scheme that wound through the Brooklyn police. Still, it’s bold considering 1958 and post-war idealism.

Pete Harris (Darren McGavin) at one point pulls out his military uniform, somewhat dejected that he’s only a cop now. Soon, he’s undercover, fighting a different war and seemingly hooked on the thrills. Harris goes as far to ignore his wife’s worries – women just get in the way of tough guy stories like Case Against Brooklyn. In the end, female characters reduce to the level of overly emotional story catalysts and props. It’s man stuff that matters.

In a rather small scale thriller, Case Against Brooklyn finds the means to expand its narrative scope

Case Against Brooklyn makes that case, staging a number of back alley beatings, apartment rumbles, and seedy shots on nighttime streets during stakeouts. Cigarette smoke passes lights, that immediately notable noir aesthetic. There’s plenty to track as police swarm the area, taking jobs as teachers, waiters, linemen, and truck drivers, trying to out the corrupt source. In a rather small scale thriller, Case Against Brooklyn finds the means to expand its narrative scope even if only Harris matters to this investigation.

Everything falls back on a laundry truck business front, shuffling money around, paying off precinct higher ups to ignore millions in gambling cash. The inevitable follows – lots of death threats, panicked crooks, murders, and shoot-outs. Director Paul Wendkos (his second of 100+ credits) provides enough thrills and action, paired with occasionally fetching cinematography. Case of Brooklyn makes use of close-ups with frequency, and catches shadows to add an unseemly edge to New York streets. There’s always an uneasy sense as Harris pokes around the neighborhood. Kids play, men read newspapers on the steps, but knowing what’s happening in the background breaks that Leave it to Beaver comfort zone.

Video

A definite winner in the Noir Archive 3, Case Against Brooklyn resolves a sharp, natural, and clean grain. There’s richness to the film stock. Mill Creek’s encode here is better than almost any other film in their Archive series so far. Given problems with the others, this is an anomaly. Even the print looks in fantastic condition, natural softness to the dissolves aside.

Exquisite shadows capture vivid image density. Age doesn’t cost Case Against Brooklyn any depth. Dimension leaps from nighttime alleyways. Carefully composed highlights survive through the decades.

Strong resolution props up facial definition, an oddity at the time. Even the female cast is given sharp, resolved close-ups. Sets bring out concrete detail in bricks, making it easy to be drawn into this time period.

Audio

Dialog is the primary driving force behind this DTS-HD track. Luckily, it’s clean, limited in range of course if still lively. Fidelity matches expectations, with a fairly mundane score challenging treble with heavy brass sections. Those hold up. Instances of popping or cracking disappear, assuming they were there due to age.

Extras

Nothing.

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Case Against Brooklyn
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4

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Corrupt cops and illicit gambling lead to undercover police work in The Case Against Brooklyn, a true story with tough guy posturing.

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