3 Days of “Forgotten Noir”: Pier 23 (1951)

Dennis O’Brien (Hugh Beaumont) owns a small boat shop in San Francisco, right on the waterfront. Business is pretty slow, so Dennis does a little bit of detective work on the side.

(Image: Silver Disc)
(Image: Silver Disc)

Dennis tackles two different cases over the course of Pier 23. First, he gets wrapped up in the world of rigged wrestling matches, with this particular rigging operation leading to murder. He’s also approached by Father Donovan, who asks him to help a convict that’s going to escape from Alcatraz.

The action of the film takes place over the course of two days in Dennis O’Brien’s hectic life.

Starring alongside Beaumont are Ann Savage, Edward Brophy, Joi Lansing and Richard Travis among others. The film was directed by William Berke, written by Julian Harmon and Victor West and photographed by Jack Greenhalgh. The film was later split into two 30-minute segments for airing on television, along with two other Dennis O’Brien-centric, segmented films.

The “Alcatraz escape” portion of the plot is incredibly interesting and a lot more engaging for the viewer than the boxing scandal, though both are decent viewing. With the Alcatraz plan, there’s so much potential for it to go wrong that the viewer can’t help but get hooked (and sure enough, a whole lot does go wrong for Dennis.)

Solid performances are given in both segments. They’re believable, but not remarkable. Dennis and his adventures drive the film, keeping it intriguing enough to make up for the lack of attention-grabbing standouts in the cast.

Plenty of narration is utilized to give the viewer an “insider” perspective to the life of Dennis and his perspective as he carries out his detective work. The narration walks us through his entire thought process, including his decisions and why he makes them.

Pier 23 is quite a fun watch with some humor mixed into the crime drama. The mood never gets too dark, but there’s enough criminal intrigue to keep the viewer interested in the stories. The score: 3/5

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