Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Hell on Frisco Bay is a slam-bang return to the sort of gangster fare turned out by the yard at Warner Bros. in the 1930s. Alan Ladd plays ex-cop Steve Rollins, who serves five years on a manslaughter rap. Upon his release, Rollins dedicates himself to finding the real killer. He soon learns that the man responsible for the frame-up was Victor Amato (Edward G. Robinson), the crime kingpin who rules the roost on the docks of San Francisco. Hoping to keep the heat off his operation, Amato "invites" Rollins to join his gang. Had Rollins accepted at this point, the film would have been over; instead, he doggedly pursues the gang boss with the help of such allies as cast-off gangster moll Kay Stanley (Fay Wray) and police lieutenant Dan Bianco (William Demarest). Amato is so desperate at one point that he orders the murder of his own nephew; surely a man with this sort of temperament is doomed to a horrible demise, and that's just what happens. Joanne Dru costars as Rollins' estranged wife Marcia, who believes in her husband but doesn't relish the notion of his being shot full of holes by Amato's goons. At the time of the film's release, the critics went overboard in their approval of Edward G. Robinson's full-blooded reprisal of the sort of role which made him famous (Robinson himself hated the part, but needed the work).
ex-convict, false-accusation, frame-up, gangster, imprisonment, killing, mistaken-identity, police, revenge