Chicago Syndicate

Chicago Syndicate ★★★½

27th film of 2021: Chicago Syndicate (Sears, 1955) released by Columbia in July this noir about the dangers of organized crime comes late in the cycle and many of the story motifs such as an undercover operative working on behalf of the government and law enforcement to infiltrate a criminal organization were pretty stranded by this point. Director Fred Sears who made The Miami Story (1954) about the dangers of organized crime in Miami uses a similar formula this film. Still, the film is entertaining enough thanks to its use of location shooting (Chicago is a major character) and its cast. Dennis O’Keefe (T-Men, Raw Deal) plays Barry Amsterdam an IRS accountant tapped by the Chicago PD and local businessmen to infiltrate the syndicate after the murder of the organization’s accountant Kern in broad daylight. O’Keefe’s casting really works as he gets to play a character who seems comfortable with criminality all while trying to bring the organization down. Paul Stewart (Kiss Me Deadly, The Cobweb) plays the head of the syndicate Arnie Valent, a man who refers to himself as the last of the city’s gangsters when he takes Amsterdam to his old neighborhood. Stewart is very good as the gangster who wants the money associated with crime while still trying to seem respectable and upper class. Allison Hayes plays Sue Morton/Joyce Kern the daughter of the dead accountant who poses as a wealthy socialite trying to get close enough to Valent and his organization so that she can get revenge. Abbie Lane plays Connie Peters a singer in Valent’s nightclub and his girlfriend who later shows that she knows too much and could harm Valent. Big band leader Xavier Cugat plays Chico, Connie’s friend and the head of Valent’s nightclub band. 

There are many notable scenes in the film. There is a nice moment where Amsterdam is shown in a restaurant across the street from a theater showing On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954) another Columbia release about organized crime. The climax in the tunnels used by Chicago department stores to move merchandise and trash is also very effective and nicely uses low-key lighting to create tension and mystery. The finale on the streets of Valent’s neighborhood where his mother holds his dead body is a nice touch and recalls similar scenes in gangster films like The Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties.