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On the Bowery (1957)

tomatometer

90

Average Rating: 8.8/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.

audience

88

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 232

My Rating

Movie Info

New York, the 50s, stark, sharp, beautiful black and white: men sleeping on the street, on park benches, in doorways (one reading an old Esquire stretched out on a pushcart); men being rousted by the cops, being kicked out of bars, arguing at the top of their lungs; men listening to patently sincere pep talks from recovered drunks at the mission, marking out their spots on the floor for the night with newspapers, looking up through the chicken wire ceilings over their beds at the flophouse:

Apr 2, 2012

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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (1) | DVD (4)

"On the Bowery" offers some of the most indelible faces in an American docudrama, faces ravaged by alcohol and poverty, creased by defeat and self-deception, surrounded by a New York City that does not care. Yet no one on screen asks for pity.

January 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

On the Bowery runs only 65 minutes, but by the end you can feel skid row in your bones.

February 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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Shot on 16mm in black-and-white with a Bolex camera, the results remain stunningly authentic.

February 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
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This landmark documentary disturbs and compels as much today in a new 35mm restoration as it did when it opened in 1956 to both criticism and acclaim.

January 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a record of a time and a place in the history of New York, it's essential. As a depiction of men at the bottom of their lives, it has the same sorrowful, accusatory force as a great Depression-era photograph by Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans.

September 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A fine-grained picture of stasis, both on the street and in the faces of lifers shuffling into gin mills and flophouses.

September 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The remarkably crisp black and white photography shows what life on the street was really like for the down and outs living on the Bowery.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

The film is a fascinating bit of Americana, an indelible portrait of another time and place...stunning

July 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

...the raw footage captured by cinematographer Richard Bagley's Bolex is so powerful that any concerns about moviemaking conventions simply fall by the wayside.

March 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Playback:stl
Playback:stl

A landmark documentary.

February 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A portrait of the ravages of alcoholism so vivid that I cannot off-hand think of any equivalent.

February 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Highly recommended.

February 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Shot on Manhattan's virtually resurrected street of broken persons, the film is a snapshot of gin mills, flophouses and human wrecks, once known as "winos" for their addiction to cheap, fortified wine.

February 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Boston Herald
Boston Herald

This is a primal story of survival and trust set in what was one of the worst places in the world.

February 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Fascinating for urban and film historians, but also a moving tribute to film's timeless power to illuminate social issues. See with new The Perfect Team:The Making of.

September 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

Revival of a startling 1956 film reminds us the "good old days" weren't so good for everyone.

September 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

A vivid portrait of a New York that's long since vanished.

September 16, 2010 Full Review Source: NYC Film Critic | Comment (1)
NYC Film Critic

Lionel Rogosin's semi-documentary is an unflinching document of skid-row denizens, and humanist cinema at its unsentimental best.

September 13, 2010 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for On the Bowery

it's a tough film to watch but an important one too. rogosin was one of the first independent filmmakers in america. his first film shows a bygone skid row section of new york and the men who sleep in missions and on the streets, slaves to demon rum
March 15, 2013
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

The docufiction "On the Bowery" is best viewed as a look back at a time and place that no longer exists when derelicts would congregate on The Bowery underneath the Third Avenue Elevated tracks in Manhattan. Ray(Ray Salyer) has just returned from far flung New Jersey where he was working on the railroads. Once back in town, he goes drinking with Gorman(Gorman Hendricks). Together, they sell a pair of Ray's pants to get a room for the night but Ray does not make it that far, passing out on the street where he is not alone. Seeing an opportunity, Gorman steals his suitcase which contains Ray's prized fob watch.

One way that "On the Bowery" goes wrong is in its unconvincingly staged action(Ray never mentions his lost suitcase again) in a moderately successful attempt to mimic Italian neorealism, according to the making of documentary that followed(I didn't stay for the whole documentary since dinner and a train were calling).(Also mentioned is that the filmmakers were very knowledgeable about alcohol, preferring a watering hole in Greenwich Village.) Even with non-professional actors and real locations, director Lionel Rogosin could not quite match the evocative power of those films due to the slightest of storylines which has little to say on the human condition.
September 20, 2010
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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