The Raging Tide (1951)

Shelley Winters, Richard Conte, Stephen McNally, Charles Bickford,
After a San Francisco gangster murders a rival criminal, he seeks shelter on a fisherman's boat while the police are man-hunting him and pressuring his girlfriend into betrayal.
  • 6.3 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Ernest K. Gann, Writer:
  • George Sherman, Director:
  • Aaron Rosenberg, Producer:

All subtitles:

7 / 10

Offbeat but oddly appealing mix of fish story and film noir

An odd fish of a movie, The Raging Tide spins a yarn of crime and redemption, of the city and the sea. It opens as though it's going to be another installment in the noir cycle, with Richard Conte gunning down a rival in cold blood, phoning in a tip to the police, and fleeing to his meticulously planned alibi. Well, maybe not so meticulously, as his girlfriend (Shelly Winters) isn't where he expected her to be. So he stows away on a boat moored at Fisherman's Wharf and is well out to sea when he's discovered by skipper Charles Bickford and his son (Alex Nichol). The bounding main proves a convenient hideout, so he signs on and, improbably, comes to relish the seafaring life.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, police detective Steven McNally grills Winters about Conte's whereabouts. (He's one tough cop, telling her `You're an old-looking 23.') But she keeps mum, while go-between Nichol brings her messages from Conte, who won't set foot on land. Relationships among the principals intertwine: Bickford, having problems with his unruly son, takes a shine to Conte, while Nichol falls for Winters. Then Conte hatches a scheme to frame Nichol for the murder he's wanted for, using Winters as his cat's paw. But a big storm blows in....

The Raging Tide boasts solid, if slightly hammy, performances; even Bickford manages to crawl out from under the heaviest Svedish accent since Anna Christie. The picture's all but stolen by John McIntyre as a penniless old salt trying to escape the attentions of Minerva Urecal, though his function in the story never becomes clear. And that story, sentimental and a bit old-fashioned, stays strong enough to compel interest, surviving even the inevitable disappointment that comes when its noir elements go full fathom five.

8 / 10

Richard Conte goes incognito on a fishing boat

"The Raging Tide" from 1951 is set in San Franciso and stars Richard Conte, Charles Bickford, Alex Nicol, S helley Winters, John McIntire, and Stephen McNally.

Conte is a mobster Bruno Felkin who murders someone and goes on the run. Lieutenant Kelsey (McNally) isn't concerned. There are only three ways out of San Francisco, and he's got them blocked off.

He forgot about the fourth - the ocean. Felkin hides on a fishing boat belonging to Hamil Linder (Bickford). His only crew is his son Carl (Nicol). When he's found, he offers to work, and Linder takes him on. Kelsey then tries to locate Bruno through his girlfriend, Connie (Winters)

Carl hates working on the boat - it's part of a deal he made with the prosecutor rather than go to prison for five years. He has to work for a year. Not only does he hate it, but he resents his father and isn't very nice to him. This bothers Bruno, who feels that Linder is a good guy and doesn't deserve the treatment.

Eventually he hires Carl to be a collector for his various organizations. Carl then meets Connie and becomes interested in her. Bruno, resenting Carl, comes up with a plan to keep him out of his and Connie's lives.

This actually isn't a crime drama at all, and the show is completely stolen by Charles Bickford, who is wonderful as Linder, a hard-working immigrant who feels as though his son is lost to him and becomes close to Bruno. Conte does a great job. He's tough as nails but softens working on the boat close to Linder. Linder has given him something he never had, while Carl is throwing it away.

Alex Nicol was an accomplished stage actor who was discovered by George Sherman, who directed this film. He gets to show a multilayered personality. Shelley Winters is Connie, a lonely woman in love with Bruno even though she knows it's a mistake. Young with a beautiful figure, she was always a good actress.

A lovely film, not what I expected. When you see the name Conte in the credits, you figure it's a crime drama. Not really.

5 / 10

Choppy Waters.

The Raging Tide is directed by George Sherman and adapted to screenplay by Ernest K. Gann from his own novel Fiddler's Green. It stars Shelley Winters, Richard Conte, Stephen McNally, Charles Bickford, John McIntire and Alex Nicol. Music is by Frank Skinner and cinematography by Russell Metty.

Hoodlum Bruno Felkin (Conte) hides out on the Linder family fishing boat to avoid the cops. They affect his life as much as he affects theirs?

It's got a stellar noir cast and quality in the music and photography departments, but there's nothing raging about this soggy piece of drama. Conte is watchable as a thug, no surprise there, but the screenplay does him and everyone else few favours. Only one to come out on top of the writing is Winters, who revels in cutting remarks delivered via a serpent tongue. Bickford is trying to be Swedish, giving Sterling Hayden in Terror in a Texas Town a run for his money for worst Swede accent ever. While McIntire and McNally at least earn their wages.

Little to recommend outside of the cast list here I'm sad to say. 5/10

6 / 10

If Bickford Says He Caught A Fish This Long, I Believe Him

Racketeer Richard Conte kills a man, and has to high-tail it out of San Francisco. The roads rails and airports are sewn up tight, so he takes the fourth exit. He hops onto a fishing boat, and then presents himself to its skipper, Charles Bickford, explaining he got drunk and fell into the boat. He's willing to work his way. Bickford agrees, but son and crew Alex Nicol knows there's more to it than that. Meanwhile, detective Stephen McNally keeps a close tail on Conte's girl friend, Shelley Winters.

There are changes to the characters - McNally not included - and it's good to watch the relations among them shift and change. Director George Sherman is facile at the action sequences, and Ernest Gann's script, in which everything is SYMBOLIC handles the ... well, if it's meant to be subtext, it's not hidden very deep. Fortunately the actors are all good, even if Bickford blows everyone else off the screen while he's on it

6 / 10

The suspense in this one sleeps with the fishes...

... which is disappointing since this is allegedly a film noir. It starts off with a bang - literally - as small time collection racket hood Bruno Felkin (Richard Conte) shoots and kills Marty Prince. Then he does an odd thing. Bruno calls the police to say that Marty has just been murdered. Why? He is going to run to his girlfriend Connie's (Shelley Winters) place, be there in seven minutes, and thus have an alibi for the murder. The reasoning behind this being that Bruno had a motive to kill Prince so the police will come looking for him pretty much out of the gate. But Connie isn't at home, and her building is the kind you need to be "buzzed" into by a resident. Bruno didn't think this out very well ahead of time, did he?

So now he's on the run and there are roadblocks on every avenue leading out of San Francisco. The police could do these things 70 years ago when there was a murder a month. So Bruno hides out on a fishing boat. When he is discovered by the owner, Hamill Linder (Charles Bickford), Bruno claims to be a salesman who was walking by, got overpoweringly sleepy, fell asleep aboard the vessel, and only woke up once they were at sea.

So now this film transitions into something like Captains Courageous where the bad guy ( not that bad in Courageous!) finds honest hard work and the father figure he never had at sea. But it is not all smooth sailing, because Hamill has his own problems. Primarily his problem is that his son is a hood in the making, and he is not nearly as smooth or smart as he thinks that he is.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Detective Kelsey is investigating this murder and looking for Bruno, all the while spouting dialogue that sounds like it was written for Detective Frank Drebin of Police Squad, but sounding obnoxious versus having Drebin's clueless adorable presence. Shelley Winters doesn't have lots of screen time as Bruno's cynical girlfriend, but she makes that time count.

There are a couple of goofs/odd things going on. For one, that door buzzer, a key plot point, disappears after Bruno is foiled by the thing as people wander effortlessly into Connie's building and right up to her door. Also, there is a group of perpetually drunk fishermen on the wharf, to what end I have no idea. Fishermen are a hard working lot and don't have time for such loitering.

On the bright side, there are lots of good shots of mid 20th century San Francisco to the point I'm surprised Eddie Muller, film noir aficionado and native of that city, hasn't had this one restored for old times sake. There are also lots of shots of what working on a fishing boat at that time looked like without it turning into a documentary.

I'd mildly recommend this one if only for the performances from Bickford, Conte, and Winters. Just realize going in that it is much too sentimental for a noir.