Plot: Walter Kyne (Vincent Price) has just lost his father, but he is more concerned with the businesses he has inherited and he is determined to be aggressive than his late father was. At the head of a news empire that includes a newspaper, a television station, and a wire service, Kyne plans to create a new position that allows someone else to do all the hard work, while he reaps the benefits. This high profile position is hotly contested and several of Kyne’s top men are interested, so a recent news story seems to be the best way to prove their worth. A man known as The Lipstick Killer is preying on women and the police have few leads, but if one of the newsmen can break the story and by turn the case, it would certainly land them that prestige position. But how far are these men willing to go to win Kyne’s favor?
Entertainment Value: This is an interesting movie, as it involves a serial killer on the loose, but casts an almost darker light on the behavior of the ambitious, relentless media than the murderer himself. So this isn’t a murder mystery where you solve who the killer is, that is revealed early on, but a look at the lengths the media men will go to in order to chase that promotion, as well as some dark parallels with the case. The newsmen are not the noble kind, looking for justice and public awareness, but driven by greed and power, though one is less ruthless than the others. But even he has his less than ideal traits and like the others, he succumbs to ambition at times. The way women are treated is of specific interest, but no one here seems all that concerned with others. This is dark, even by film noir standards and because it takes a grounded, restrained approach, it feels even more bleak. The movie has an oppressive feel at times and while some tension comes from the pursuit of the killer, most of the suspense lies with how far these newsmen will go to get what they want. The cast is impressive and the performances aren’t over the top, so the dark tone remains effective. Vincent Price, Dana Andrews, George Sanders, Rhonda Fleming, Ida Lupino, and more are all present, so this is quite an ensemble. I found this to be an excellent movie with a narrative that keeps you hooked, not to mention some terrific performances. If you’re a fan of Fritz Lang or film noir in general, this is highly recommended.
No nakedness. This movie involves an affair and forbidden romance, but the movie doesn’t focus on the lurid aspects. The women in While the City Sleeps aren’t well treated, however. No blood. This one is about tension and mood, the depths at which these men will sink, not so much violence or bloodshed. So while there is a killer at the movie’s center, the focus on more on psychological elements rather than violence. I found the dialogue here to be well written and memorable, with a lot of dysfunction, manipulation, and some wild banter at times. Price is able to add menace to all of his lines, as per usual, but the prominent female cast members have some of the best exchanges here. The dialogue is drama laden, but never feels over the top, so the tone remains serious or tinged in darkness. I really liked the writing here, it has some snap in the lines and the cast makes the most of those opportunities. As for craziness, the dark tone and the social drama put up a point, but While the City Sleeps is mostly grounded and rarely goes to the wild fringes of melodrama.
Overall Insanity: 1/10