The Phenix City Story

1955 | Drama | 100 minutes | English


The town of Phenix City, Alabama  can do little to stop the criminal activities of Rhett Tanner. Crime and corruption are rife as the police do very little. After all, most of the police are on Tanner’s payroll. Phenix City was considered a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.  Fed up, the town implores Albert Patterson to run for attorney general and clean up corruption. At first he is reluctant to take on what he considers to be a thankless, impossible job. But when violence breaks out and Clem Wilson, who works for Tanner, starts to assault outspoken citizens, Albert Patterson accepts the job. He is committed to clean up the town. But as soon as he becomes a nominee, he is assassinated. It is now up to his son John, returning from military service, to avenge his father’s assassination even though he knows by doing so he puts his family at risk. The film was shot on location in Phenix and included locals as bit players. John Patterson was later elected Governor of Alabama defeating the segregationist candidate George Wallace. 

John McIntire (Albert Patterson) / Richard Kiley (John Patterson) / Edward Andrews (Rhett Tanner) / John Larch (Clem Wilson)
Why Stream This Film?
The efforts back then of people fighting to clean up the corruption and crime in their town is so relevant today. That’s what makes this extraordinary film so terrifying and also so hopeful. What could be more riveting than to see townspeople willing to stand up and even to die to get rid of the bad guys?
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • In 2019 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

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Phil Karlson’s THE PHENIX CITY STORY is one of the most hard-hitting crime films of its era. It’s inspired by real-life events and directed in a semi-documentary style with a tabloid punch.
Sean Axmaker

Parallax View

THE PHENIX CITY STORY  is a violent, absorbing true story about an Alabama town’s efforts to throw off the shackles of organized crime. Recommended.
Clyde Gilmour

Maclean's Movies

What the people of Phenix City, Alabama went through before that notorious vice and gambling town was spotlighted by the murder on June17, 1954, of Albert Patterson, its leading anti-vice crusader, is vividly and terrifyingly pictured in an uncommonly good little film, THE PHENIX CITY STORY. There are those who may feel this vivid chapter out of the recent annals of American corruption and crime to be too ugly to acknowledge. That may sentimentally be. But it is a fine piece of picture journalism—and a tautly made movie to boot.
Bosley Crowther

The New York Times

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