In murky light, a piece of paper sinks in a shallow tin tub.
By degrees, faces and forms appear on the page: a swooning
woman, (circa 1940) a cop who tries to catch her, a crowd of
onlookers standing in the shadows of a tenement house in the
aftermath of a murder. Before the photograph has completely
developed, it seems to fade in a dreamy
Another submerged page. A new images begins to appear: a
thick-ankled stripper (again, 1940) sleeping between shows
in her dingy dressing room. Before it has fully developed,
this photo also
A new page on which appears a billboard attached to a burning
building. It advertises a 1930's sunburn medication: "Put
out the flames with SunzoCaine!" Painted flames rises from a
sunbather's burnt back, mixing with the real ones.
We continue sensuously to DISSOLVE THROUGH black and white,
high-contrast photos as they come hauntingly to life (all of
them depicting New York, at night, in the late 30's or early
40's) till we END TITLES.
We PAN TO the dim red darkroom bulb, under which we begin to
hear a faint siren and
...another red bulb, this one atop a patrol car.
EXT./INT. POLICE CAR [APRIL, 1942] - NIGHT
We hear a Dispatcher's monotonous voice over a hissing police
Signal 30. Two-three-six Thompson
Inside the car, the Young Cop who's driving angles forward
in his seat, pressing heavily on the gas.
His older partner stares forward, blankly.
EXT. 236 THOMPSON STREET - SAME
A respectable working-class block. Neighbors are clustered
by the stoop in robes, pajamas, undershirts. A woman with
young children holds them to her nightgown. All watch as The
Cops pull up by the curb and rush from their squadcar. They
push their way through the crowd.
(in an undershirt,
The Cops continue into the building.
INT. STAIRWELL - 236 THOMPSON
The Cops move stealthfully up the dim stairwell, guns drawn.
On the third-floor landing, a door is ajar. Light spills out
onto the floorboards.
As they ascend, the Cops can see the corpse of a smartly
dressed young man inside:
It lies face down, its features rudely pressed and bloody
against the floor. A freshly-blocked hat lies a few feet
from the dead man; he was shot as he came home.
On the landing, the Cops move carefully to the door, hugging
They hear someone moving inside the apartment. They freeze,
The older Cop cocks his gun, crosses himself, wraps his hand
around the doorframe. He jumps into
crouching, gun drawn. A crackling, blistering sound is heard
as a flash of light fills the room, blinding him.
(blinking as he stands)
A flashbulb hits the floor hollowly.
BERNZY (whose real name is Leon Bernstein and whose
professional name is "The Great Bernzini") inserts a new
bulb in the giant chrome flash attachment of his Speed Graphic
press camera. A cigar is planted in the corner of his mouth.
Bernzy cuts a curious figure: He wears an oddly oversized
suit that has capacious pockets to accommodate camera lenses,
film plates and flashbulbs. His thick-soled shoes are sensible
to a fault. He wears a hat but no tie.
His face is alert and ironic, his movements rapid and
(to the Cop, deadpan)
You scared me.
He reaches into his jacket to extract a new 4 x 5 glass film
plate (from a bag of plates hung over his shoulder) with a
well-practised, unhurried speed.
The older cop, O'BRIEN, is annoyed; his comment sounds like