The Phenix City Story (1955)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Based on a true story and featuring some of the actually people involved, this grim, violent crime drama is set in the title Alabama city that was in 1954 a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah of organized crime, corruption and seamy behavior. The townsfolk, fed up they the tawdriness around them, elect a new attorney general, a man who vows to eradicate the gangsters and their filth. Unfortunately, the mobsters quickly murder the troublesome crusader. Fortunately, the attorney's straight-arrow son has just returned from the war and is only too happy to fill his late fathter's shoes. Despite the constant and potentially deadly obstacles presented by the mob, the iron-willed young man stands firm and eventually defeats them. Original versions of Phenix City Story feature a 13-minute preface that featured interviews with the people involved, including the widow of the murdered attorney general. In real life, John Patterson was later elected governor of Alabama, defeating, among others, future presidential candidate George Wallace.
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Richard Kiley
as John Patterson
Kathryn Grant
as Ellie Rhodes
Biff McGuire
as Fred Gage
John McIntire
as Albert Patterson
Edward Andrews
as Rhett Tanner
George Mitchell
as Hugh Britton
John Larch
as Clem Wilson
Otto Hulett
as Hugh Bentley
James Edwards
as Zeke Ward
Lenka Peterson
as Mary Jo Patterson
Helen Martin
as Helen Ward
Jean Carson
as Cassie
Meg Myles
as Singer
Clete Roberts
as Interviewer in Prolog
Allen Nourse
as Jeb Bassett
Truman Smith
as Ed Gage
Ma Beachie
as Herself
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Critic Reviews for The Phenix City Story

All Critics (6)

A nasty docudrama profile.

Full Review… | August 26, 2011
East Bay Express

... one of the most hard-hitting crime films of its era... inspired by real-life events and directed in a semi-documentary style with a tabloid punch.

Full Review… | August 11, 2010
Parallax View

Karlson's finest hour.

Full Review… | July 16, 2010
Combustible Celluloid

Brilliant social commentary film - an extraordinary view of society in 1955.

Full Review… | August 9, 2007
Classic Film and Television

Its borderline-obscene wallop is derived from its brusque brutality.

Full Review… | May 15, 2006
Slant Magazine

Richard Kiley does a fine job as the crusading reformer.

Full Review… | March 15, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Phenix City Story

Boy, I've got to give this movie credit for sheer balls. This movie might beat out Night of the Hunter for most shocking depiction of violence in 1955 films- and I don't say that lightly! While its acting and storytelling are dated, it kicks into high gear with it's first genuinely (!) shocking murder depiction, and only seems to keep going from there. I was worried this was going to be one of those films that indulges in its depiction of thugs, or worse, preaches at your for two hours. But it managed to walk that fine moral line, most likely because it was based on true events. The most interesting takeaway of this movie to me was the question of what does it take? When the murder of a child isn't enough to get the town up in arms, where do you go from there? A fascinating if not oddly relevant film to watch in 2016.

Jenna Ipcar
Jenna Ipcar

The Phenix City Story is a powerful look into the social climate of the American south in the 1950's. The film starts off in a documentary style and then transitions into a traditional narrative, all the while feeling honest in it's telling of a small town taken over by crime. The Phenix City Story was controversial upon initial release and is just as gritty and effective 55 years later.

Jeff Dickerson
Jeff Dickerson

Hmmm. I don't know about this one. The Phenix City Story in itself was pretty decent. Said to have been based on a true story of citizens fighting against a tradition of vice and corruption, The Phenix City Story tells its story effectively and at some points gruesomely (you see kids getting killed in this movie--almost comically but still.) More of a crime documentary than the obscure film noir classic its made out to be, this isn't a bad movie. Some scenes are very well done even if elements of the story aren't fleshed out so well. The biggest problem I had with The Phenix City story was the opening 15 minutes of man-on-the-street interview footage with the actual people who lived through the story. I understand the desire to make the movie more authentic or real, but the hokey and heavy-handed interviews were a bit much. Overall, not bad...

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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