director Fritz Lang
While the City Sleeps, Fritz Lang’s second to last Hollywood film, feels more nominally noir that fully noir. Not that noir is such a definitive thing itself.
Visually, at least, Lang takes the film into the subway tunnel for a brief chase of the serial killer, in a brief but effective sequence of something much more noir than the rest. From what I’ve read, production costs and studio limitations hampered Lang’s visual style in his last couple of films.
So, yes, there is a serial killer, but the primary focus of the film is a media empire at odds with itself. With the death of the empire’s president and namesake, the heads of the newspaper, the wire service, and the photography branch all vie for the top job under the president’s ne’er-do-well son (Vincent Price, in short and tall dark socks at one point).
The ham-fisted script roils with plot points and way too many convenient twists, but still puts up a good testament to importance of the free press.
Dana Andrews is the one reporter with a nose for the news, but he’s a drunk who’s willing to put his fiancée out as bait for the “Lipstick Killer”. The convoluted drama is rife with noirish cynicism, but frankly, While the City Sleeps might be my least favorite Fritz Lang film I’ve seen.