In the New York of the 1880s the newspaper business is a cutthroat one, with certain titles willing to stoop to underhand tactics to keep ahead of the pack. One of the journalists working for The Star is Phineas Mitchell (Gene Evans), who is always on the lookout for a good story, but never really satisfied with what he has: there is always room for improvement. Therefore when he is told by his boss Charity Hackett (Mary Welch) that he is fired for insubordination, along with a few of his fellow colleagues who were grumbling about their lot at the bar, he sees it as an opportunity. He will start his own paper, do things right this time, and take the others with him; first he needs a headline story, and gets one almost immediately when someone jumps from the Brooklyn Bridge...
Don't worry, the diver survives to tell his tale, but as this is an illegal act he is under threat of arrest for his stunt. Something Phineas is all to aware of when he shops him to the cops, all the better to start a campaign in his newspaper to have him released, such were the machinations that he uses to generate circulation - and he's supposed to be the good guy. Actually, compared to Hackett he is, as her Star becomes the newly named Globe's main rival, and wastes no time in countering its genuine news stories with sabotage, recognising Mitchell has a very strong chance of messing up their sales. In the twenty-first century, a film about a newspaper would see the victims as the members of the public they exploited, but not so here.
In this case, oddly what began as a drama turned into a thriller, all under the guidance of writer and director (and ex-journalist) Samuel Fuller, who was so confident of the worth of his film that he sank all his savings into it in order to complete it independently, and subsequently lost the lot when it flopped badly. However, as with many of his works, it built a cult following thanks to it being such a hard sell with the public, not sounding like the most obvious subject for suspense so therefore taking those who caught it by surprise when it was so gritty in content. Fuller cast one of his discoveries as the hero, Gene Evans, one of those actors who also won a cult following through those who appreciated seeing him as often the best thing in a war movie or Western.
Evans was awarded leads in Fuller efforts, though he was most usually a supporting actor, yet you could well understand if he had been around later on in the history of movies he would have been very able as one of those star character actors with his bluff charisma and way of selling even Fuller's most over the top lines (and there were a few). His leading lady was Mary Welch, an unconventional villain in an unconventional film; her career was mostly on the stage but ended tragically when she died giving birth to a son while in her thirties, even worse the son died in the Lockerbie bombings in 1988, leaving her widower, Bewitched star David White bereft twice over. Fuller's movies seemed to attract tales like that, not always a great thing in light of the real life issues, yet contributing to his colourful career nevertheless.
Phineas amasses both staff and reputation apparently over the course of a couple of days, as almost immediately The Globe is big news itself. Ostensibly a tribute to the glories of the Fifth Estate, Fuller was not necessarily viewing the trade through rose tinted spectacles for there may have been an abundance of trumpeting the achievements of a free press in the Land of the Free, but you could just as easily notice the system allows many to be driven into the ground thanks to a rivalry that's cutthroat almost literally. What begins as planting stories in The Star to do down Mitchell's publication turns nasty very quickly, with each of them more intent on reporting on their own egotistical campaigns rather than actual news organically arising from the world around them. The Globe starts one about raising funds to buy a plinth for the Statue of Liberty, in spite of The Star's scaremongering which ends up in violence and destruction, all on Hackett's orders. For such surface patriotism, Park Row (the name of the street the press were on) exposed a dark heart of freedom. Music by Paul Dunlap.
Pioneering independent director, best known for his tough 60s thrillers. Fuller began his career in Hollywood in the mid-1930s, and after a spell in the army and many frustrated years as a writer, directed his first film in 1949, the Western I Shot Jesse James. Fuller's third film, The Steel Helmet, was the first movie to deal with the Korean war and was a huge success. Other films Fuller made in the 50s include Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo and Run of the Arrow.
The 1960s saw Fuller deliver dark, ground-breaking thrillers like Underworld USA, Shock Corridor and the infamous The Naked Kiss, which divided critics with their mix of melodrama and brutal realism. Fuller subsequently found it hard to find employment in Hollywood and largely worked as an actor throughout the 70s. The 1980 war movie The Big Red One was something of a comeback, but his next film, the anti-racist White Dog caused yet more controversy, and it has rarely been seen in its intended form. Fuller's final feature was the 1989 crime drama Street of No Return, although he worked in TV until the mid-90s. Died in 1997 aged 86.