With enough N-Bombs to make Quentin Tarantino blush, No Way Out is one helluva tough watch that’s for sure. However it processes an important social message about racial prejudices and bigoted hatred. This is the story of a young black man and his encounter with narrow-minded, blind, racial intolerance.
The young man in question is Dr. Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier) a recently qualified doctor at the county hospital. Under the guide of his friend and mentor Dr. Daniel Wharton (Stephen McNally) Luther has excelled through his training. A truly gifted and dedicated medical practitioner but his first days are about to be tested to the utmost limit. Smashing through the hospital swing doors comes the arrival of “human garbage with a sick mind”. The Biddle brothers, Johnny (Dick Paxton) and his older brother Ray (Richard Widmark) who’s definitely contender for most racist man ever!
The two convicts are dragged into the hospital with gunshot wounds picked up from a bodged robbery on a petrol station. Handcuffed to their beds, Luther, the doctor in charge, begins to treat the twosome. What he finds is the sneering and spiteful wrath of Ray Biddle. Luther is strong willed, he’s met people like this before, he’s got a job to do, he’s professional no matter what hatred is thrown at him. Luther discovers something is seriously wrong with Johnny, he’s half paralyzed, breathing badly and unresponsive. He needs to step up, recalling his training he works through the symptoms to rule out smaller problems.
With a constant barrage of obscenities screaming from foul mouth Ray in his ear, Luther begins with a spinal tap of Johnny’s back to release pressure. To Luther’s shocked disbelief, Johnny suddenly dies to the screams and abuse from Ray that Luther has killed him. Stunned, Luther knows from his training that it wasn’t the spinal tap but more than likely a brain hemorrhage. There was only one way to find out for sure, an autopsy. It was a 50/50 gamble but he knows it’s worth it and so does his friend. There’s one snag? They need permission to do the autopsy from a family member! And Ray is the only living relative. There’s no way he will let his brother be cut up into little pieces to redeem this black doctor. What will doctors Luther Brooks and Daniel Wharton be able to do?
Dr Daniel Wharton – “I’m not pro negro, I’m pro doctor”
In the mix of the film, it exposes racial tension ripe in the city from both a white and black view point. All the time building to a melting pot of tension bubbling like a pressure cooker to fuel a race riot. The narration speeds through the story like a Cassius Clay sized fist smashing through a brick wall. Add in some sign language and a beautiful feisty divorcee called Edie Johnson (Linda Darnell) and you will find yourself an thrilling well made drama.
A few observations.
- Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz with a story penned by himself and Lesser Samuels getting a Best Story and Screenplay nomination at the 23rd Academy Awards. Losing in fact to Sunset Boulevard, so hopefully they didn’t feel too bad!
- American graphic designer Paul Rand designed the fantastic poster which has incredible style to it.
- Nice to see Ossie Davis in his debut film and also alongside his true love Ruby Dee who they would spend the rest of their lives together.
- This is the Sidney Poitier show and you can really tell the star power this young actor had. This being his debut film and you can feel his charisma and talent shining through.
- Richard Widmark plays his part with fury. There’s much venom in his snarling anger. I read he was friends with Sidney, so I can only imagine that the part must of been troubling to play. He did have a knack to playing twisted characters even though with what I’ve heard he was a bit of a pacifist.
- After seeing Stephen McNally in quite a few baddy roles it was a pleasure to watch him playing a kind, sweet and honest man.
- The radio rescue scene was a great smile moment to cut through the tension.
I’m sure you’ve seen this one but if not it’s another well acted piece of drama from the 1950’s and the cast should sell it alone. Let me know your thoughts on it if you wish. As always keep searching for those wonderful films. All the best.. Mikey
PS This Italian poster is great. Going by the title Uomo bianco tu vivrai which google translates to White man you will live!