Saturday, November 21, 2020

Million Dollar Pursuit (1951)

Republic Pictures was one of the most prolific and long-lasting of the so-called Poverty Row studios. Westerns and serials were its bread and butter, but it also made a surprising number of films noirs and noir-ish crime movies. A couple have already been reviewed on here, 'Federal Agent At Large' (1950) and 'Post Office Investigator' (1949), but there are literally dozens more... The quality varies a lot, but you don't watch these movies expecting 'The Maltese Falcon', hah... I'll say one thing tho for Republic, their movie posters were always well-made and nice to look at. Today's movie, 'Million Dollar Pursuit', doesn't have the prettiest one, but take a look at the posters for the movie linked above. It's a style I really like a lot!

That money's so hot it's blistering your fingers

One day small-time crook Monte Norris (Norman Budd) sees a key chain fall out of a man's pocket. He's been looking for a big score and once he realizes the keys belong to the head cashier of a department store, a plan for a bold robbery starts to brew in his mind. A team is assembled, and the robbery goes off without a hitch. The gang hides out in a remote farm, waiting for things to cool down. They realize the money's too hot to handle, and Norris asks his former business partner nightclub owner Carlo Petrov (Grant Withers) to launder the money for him. Meanwhile police lieutenant Matt Whitcomb (Michael St. Angel) is put on the robbery case, but tensions are already brewing between the gang members, with deadly consequences...

...and it is here that I should mention the woman in the middle, who is in this case quite literally in the middle. Night club singer Ronnie LaVerne (Penny Edwards) is Norris's ex-gf and he's hoping a big score will drive her back into his arms. She's also however currently dating, and working for, Petrov. Who may or may not be the one who framed her some time before which landed her in prison. Whitcomb was also a police officer at the time and still carries a torch for LaVerne, and he warns her not to get into trouble. But as she explains to him, she wants to find out who framed her...

So yes, this is a basic heist movie at its core, but the many ways in which Ronnie LaVerne is intertwined into the lives of the various men, good and bad, adds a whole layer of complexity to the movie. It isn't exactly a work of Chandler-ian levels, and the truth behind LaVerne's frame job is never really resolved, but the script by Albert DeMond ('Federal Agent At Large') and Bradbury Foote ('The Madonna's Secret') does make it rise above what you'd expect from the plot of a Poverty Row crime movie. Funnily enough the robbers get away with close to half a million dollars, not the full million dollars as promised by the movie's title. 'Close To Half A Million Dollar Pursuit' doesn't sound nearly as exciting tho, does it?

Performance-wise this is what you'd expect from a low-budget B-movie like this one... Nothing great, but service-able enough. Penny Edwards, who starred mostly in B-westerns but also the B-noir 'Missing Women', impresses the most here, while Norman Budd ('The Red Menace', 'Unmasked') has enough of a tough screen presence to carry this type of movie. It's surprising neither did more crime movies than they did.

Per usual the direction and cinematography is workmanlike, but nothing exceptional. Director R.G. Springsteen ('Secret Service Investigator', 'When Gangland Strikes') proves himself to be a capable Republic director, making the most of what he has to work with. There are some pretty neat scenes in this movie however, including a shoot out inside a garage, as well as a tense climax inside a warehouse. Both at night and with some decent cinematography courtesy of Walter Strenge ('Cry Terror!', 'Appointment With Murder'). It's not a hidden gem, but if you have an hour to spare (the movie is exactly one hour long!), you could do a lot worse than watch this one.

6+/10

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Sun Sets At Dawn (1950)

Plenty of movies have been made about prisoners on death row, including a couple of films noirs. The 1958 noir 'I Want To Live!' about a free-spirited woman sentenced to death even earned Susan Hayward an Oscar. Other such noirs were never really meant to be Oscar-contenders, but rather quickly made B-features for the lower bill, sold in package deals. 1950's 'The Sun Sets At Dawn' is one such movie, even if it tries to add some different, more poetic, ingredients to the mix.

Always on the grim gray dawn of an execution, it seems instead of rising, the sun sets...

The movie starts off in an intriguing manner... It's 4.30am and an old man drags a mailbag outside of a roadside cafe, when a bus arrives. A girl exits, in a seemingly comatose state. They share some looks and he helps her into a waiting car, which drives off into the night... It's a small scene, but the way it plays out without any dialogue and a lot of melancholy, the tone is set. This is not going to be a cheery movie...

The Girl (Sally Parr) is on her way to the execution of her boyfriend The Boy (Patrick Waltz), who has been sentenced to death for the murder of a politician. He always claimed innocence, but after 2 reprieves the governor has denied another one. There is also another reason to deny the reprieve, it will be the first execution by a new electric chair in the state. A group of newspaper reporters have gathered inside the roadside cafe, waiting to be driven to the prison, to the execution.

The story of the murder is explained in 2 ways, by The Boy as he has one final talk with The Chaplain (Walter Reed), and at the same time, by the reporters as they recount the details of the case and the trial to a young new reporter (Sam Edwards). It's a decent way to explain the backstory, as well as drop a few clues for the murder case... This is not a flashy crime or mystery movie however even if it does have those elements to it. It's really more of a solemn, doom-laden movie with a dark feeling of despair and dread throughout. The movie does not use names for most of its characters, which adds to the bleak mood. It's a small touch, but it does work.

The movie does suffer from some pretty wooden acting from the lead actors however. This was Patrick Waltz's first movie, billed as Philip Shawn, and it shows, he's clearly out of his depth with the heavy and deep emotions he's supposed to emote. He would move on to bit parts on TV after this movie. Sally Parr does a bit better, but she left the business after this movie and a TV appearance. It seems she was more comfortable on the theater stage than in front of the camera. Thankfully there are several well-known character actors here with decent performances, such as Percy Helton ('The Set-Up') and Charles Arnt ('Hollow Triumph') as a couple of reporters, Housely Stevenson ('Dark Passage') as the owner of the roadside cafe and Howard St. John ('Strangers On A Train') as the prison warden.

This was one of director Paul Sloane's last movies, after leaving the business for over a decade. He does a solid job here, together with DoP Lionel Lindon ('Alias Nick Beal')... There are several interesting scenes and shots, that are a notch above what you'd expect from a low-budget movie like this one. It's a shame that the movie's script, written by the director, required a couple of contrived coincidences to reach its conclusion, but overall I've seen far worse.

'The Sun Sets At Dawn' is not exactly a hidden gem, but its downbeat and bleak mood do set it apart from other movies. Despite its issues I enjoyed this movie, it's different.

7/10

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Angel's Flight (1965)

'This hill, you know... Stories, it's loaded. Nobody's ever written 'em. Now they're tearin' it down... I figure somebody ought to say something about it before it's gone.'

The Bunker Hill area in Los Angeles as depicted in noirs such as 'Criss Cross', 'Cry Danger' and 'Kiss Me Deadly' no longer exists. The seedy, crime-ridden area was torn down by several development projects and even leveled to make it less of a hill. Also because of this, the iconic funicular train Angel's Flight would eventually be relocated to a different part of Los Angeles. 1965's 'Angel's Flight' is one of the last movies to feature the old Bunker Hill in all its grubby glory and it does so quite prominently, much more so than the previously mentioned movies. As such, but only because of this, this low-budget noir-ish exploitation thriller is of interest to noir aficionados...

The Bunker Hill area in Los Angeles as depicted in noirs such as 'Criss Cross', 'Cry Danger' and 'Kiss Me Deadly' no longer exists. The seedy, crime-ridden area was torn down by several development projects and even leveled to make it less of a hill. Also because of this, the iconic funicular train Angel's Flight would eventually be relocated to a different part of Los Angeles. 1965's 'Angel's Flight' is one of the last movies to feature the old Bunker Hill in all its grubby glory and it does so quite prominently, much more so than the previously mentioned movies. As such, but only because of this, this low-budget noir-ish exploitation thriller is of interest to noir aficionados...

Alcoholic ex-reporter turned pulp writer Ben Wiley (William Thourlby) lives in Bunker Hill which is in the grips of a series of killings, all men who had their throats slashed. His friend, police detective Pete (Warren Kemmerling) tries to steer him back into investigative reporting by trying to get him to look into the Bunker Hill murders. What Wiley does not know is that he has already had an encounter with this elusive Bunker Hill murderer, a stripper named Liz (Indus Arthur). But to him she's an 'angel' he stumbled into while on a bender. When he finds out they live in the same apartment building, he makes her acquaintance and slowly becomes closer to her. Meanwhile the police have asked Wiley to become bait for the Bunker Hill murderer due to his good looks...

William Thourlby was the original Marlboro Man. Possibly in an attempt to kickstart a movie career, he produced 2 films in which he both starred, 1964's 'Vengeance', and this one. It didn't seem to work however, with only a few minor part credits to his name. His performance is adequate enough however, but it's also clear to see why he never managed to become a star. Indus Arthur had a bigger career, having played in movies such as 'The Slender Thread' and 'M.A.S.H.'. This was one of her first movies however, she received an 'introducing' credit here. Her performance is surprisingly effective, she's convincing as a troubled soul whose killings are motivated by psychological trauma rather than evil intent.

The movie uses a lot of location shooting around Bunker Hill, as well as the Angel's Flight train ride, making this a fascinating movie to watch. It really offers a time capsule of an area which truly no longer exists. While not really shot in a noir fashion, cinematographer Glen Gano does manage to provide the movie with some nicely shot scenes, and even some semi-experimental transitions. In one scene, Liz is doing her dance/strip performance in a sleazy nightclub when she locks eyes with a male customer. After a bunch of deep sensual stares, and some quite frankly bizarre grimaces by Liz, the camera moves in on her eyes. Police car flashlights appear in them, ending in a dissolve of a police car arriving at the next Bunker Hill murder scene. Directors Raymond Nassour and Kenneth Richardson have a combined total of 8 movies under their belt, 6 of which made by Mansour back in Egypt! Despite this, the movie feels fairly well made. It isn't flashy or anything like that, but it works well enough.

There are some nice elements to this movie, even aside from the location shooting. The movie starts with some pretty noir-like voice over narration by Wiley, which unfortunately isn't used in the rest of the movie. Liz's troubled soul is troubled for a reason, which manifests itself in not only murder, but also in eerie portraits painted by her of an ominous man. Wiley later finds this portrait in a true crime magazine and connects the dots between Liz and the murders.

As a bit of trivia, Rue McClanahan of 'The Golden Girls' fame, where she played Blanche, has a small part in this movie as bar fly Dolly, one of the women Wiley tries to hook up with to flush out the killer.

Anyways, 'Angel's Flight' is a pretty interesting movie. It's not really a hidden gem, but it does exceed its budget and expectations as well as showing L.A.'s Bunker Hill as it once was, in far better ways than had been done previously. The copy I found online is in pretty rough shape, and I am not even sure the end credits are the original ones, as the movie ends rather abruptly before showing the opening credits again. I wouldn't mind seeing this again in a cleaned up, restored version.

6+/10

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Armored Car Robbery (1950)

Before making the stone-cold noir classic 'The Narrow Margin' in 1952, director Richard Fleischer and noir icon Charles McGraw made another film noir, 1950's 'Armored Car Robbery'. While 'The Narrow Margin' is a better movie all around, don't hesitate to catch this one either, it's a great little caper in its own right.

Dave Purvis (William Talman) has come up with a plan to rob an armored car dropping off money at LA.s Wrigley Field park. He's timed the police's response to several false alarms he's triggered, and figures there's plenty of time to carry out his plan. Of course things don't go quite according to plan, as police lieutenant Jim Cordell (Charles McGraw) and his partner happen to be near the park when the police receives another alarm. They arrive sooner than Purvis expected, forcing a shootout. Both one of the Purvis's men, Benny McBride (Douglas Fowley), as well as Cordell's partner get shot. Purvis and his men manage to escape tho, while Cordell's partner dies in the hospital later that day. Cordell is determined to catch the gang, and Purvis has to deal with his gang while evading the police...

Charles McGraw will always be fondly remembered as one of noir's tough guys, whether he played a good guy like here and in 'The Narrow Margin' or a villain such as in 'The Killers' or 'The Threat'. He has Presence with a capital P. His gravelly voice, granite face and hard-boiled demeanor made him perfect for film noir. I have yet to see a performance of his I didn't enjoy. This one's no exception, he's all sorts of great in this movie. The same can be said for William Talman, who's best known in noir circles for playing the titular character who sleeps with one eye open in Ida Lupino's 'The Hitchhiker', but overall is probably best remembered for playing the D.A. who never stood a chance against Perry Mason in the classic TV series starring Raymond Burr. Talman had an atypical look, and could act with the best of them. He has a menacing, vicious presence here, and it's clear he's not nearly as clever or calculated about the heist's plan as he himself believes. His improvisation skills during the heist, as well as in the aftermath, tend to be on the more violent side, heh...

Like Cordell's partner, Benny McBride also doesn't make it to the end of this movie, which is maybe for the best for him. He's a two-bit loser fallen on hard times, whose beautiful girlfriend and burlesque dancer, Yvonne LeDoux (Adele Jergens, 'The Dark Past', 'The Miami Story') also happens to be two-timing him... with Purvis of all men! For whatever reason, I've grown fond of seeing B-movie character actor Douglas Fowley show up in low budget noirs and crime movies of the 40s and 50s. He might not be the greatest actor ever, but he's got enough charisma and the right oily looks to always leave an impression, whether he's playing a good guy as in 'Bunco Squad' or a sleazy one as in 'Behind Locked Doors'. I wish I could say the same for Adele Jergens. I like her performance here, but it's a bit one-note and I could just as easily see another actress play her burlesque dancer role equally well.

Speaking of burlesque dancers, one of Cordell's police detectives pronounces the word burlesque as 'burle-queue'. As far as I know it's pronounced 'burlesk'... I don't know if this was a common alternative way to pronounce it, does anybody know? I'm curious, heh...

There's one other actor I'd like to mention here, and that is another member of Purvis's gang, Steve Brodie ('Desperate', 'Out Of The Past'). Brodie's name might not ring a bell to many these days, but he always turned in a solid performance and could just as easily play a good guy as he could a crook. He's good here as essentially the only guy in the heist gang who won't be played by Purvis.

There's an interesting scene involving a microphone Cordell has planted in Yvonne's dressing room. The agent assigned to listening to it can eventually tell by the sounds what Yvonne's doing, such as taking off her dress, taking off her headdress, her beads, etc... It's funny and voyeuristic at the same time.

With its fairly short running time of under 70 minutes, director Richard Fleischer (also 'The Clay Pigeon' and the sci-fi classic 'Soylent Green') keeps things fast-paced and tense. The cinematography by Guy Roe ('The Sound Of Fury') fits the movie well, even if he doesn't go into full-on chiaroscure mode. The movie delivers tho, and is a solid heist-noir with good performances. Recommended!

7+/10

Monday, June 1, 2020

This Side Of The Law (1950)

David Cummins (Kent Smith) is a down-on-his-luck hobo who's picked up for vagrancy. At his court appearance, lawyer Philip Cagle (Robert Douglas) notices that Cummins is a dead-ringer for his client, millionaire Malcolm Taylor, who's been missing for almost 7 years. Cagle has a proposition for Cummins: to impersonate Taylor for 2 weeks. Taylor's about to be declared legally dead, and Cagle wants to prevent that from happening. Cagle wants Cummins to find out what happened to Taylor, and for that Taylor cannot be dead. So Cummins heads to the Taylor estate where his wife Evelyn (Viveca Lindfors) lives with his brother Calder (John Alvin) and his wife Nadine (Janis Paige)... Cummins soon finds out they're not all that happy to see him return for various reasons, and he also has problems maintaining his cover. But before he's able to find out the truth about Taylor, there's a murder, and Cummins ends up at the bottom of a cistern, realizing he's been a patsy in someone else's plan to get Taylor's fortune...

The movie starts with Cummins stuck inside the cistern as he narrates how he got there... It's a simple but very effective way to draw in the viewer, as there is an element of mystery and intrigue to it. Using this sort of flashback story-telling was used quite regularly in the 40s, and I for one am really into it when it's done well, as it is here. Truth be told, part of the mystery is gone pretty quickly, as it is clear from very early on who's the villain (or villainess). But that still leaves the question as to what happened to Malcolm Taylor.

Kent Smith ('The Damned Don't Cry', 'Cat People') isn't a well-remembered name these days, and he wasn't an A-list leading man at the time. He was a reliable actor who had enough charisma and talent to carry a movie, but for whatever reason, he never quite broke through. He's good here, and carries the movie with ease. But it is Swedish-born Viveca Lindfors ('Dark City') who is top-billed, despite her role being somewhat limited. She's great here tho, as the conflicted widow who suddenly gets her husband back, but he's a completely different man from the selfish and cold-hearted man she used to know.

It's a bit surprising Janis Paige wasn't cast as a femme fatale before or after, she's great as the gold-digging wife of the cowardly Calder who also had an affair with Malcolm Taylor. It should come as no surprise that she's the one to discover Cummins is an impersonator, and that she tries to use it to her advantage...

There's also a lot to like here visually, also thanks to the movie's setting. A big mansion near a cliff, a man stuck inside a cistern, a lethargic 'widow'... At times the movie has a gothic noir feel to it, mixed in with a bit of 'Rebecca'... Director Richard L. Bare and cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie worked together many times, including on the noir 'Flaxy Martin' as well as several Joe McDoakes shorts and it shows. Their work is more than solid, they're able to effectively create some highly atmospheric scenes. The story might not be too surprising in who's the real villain(ess), but it's well-written and there are no real filler scenes or story lines either... So to me, this movie ticked a lot of boxes, and I had a great time with it. Recommended!

8-/10

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Strange Bargain (1949)

The salary of assistant bookkeeper Sam Wilson (Jeffrey Lynn) isn't enough to pay the bills for his family, so his wife Georgia (Martha Scott) pushes him to ask for a raise. Instead his boss Malcolm Jarvis (Richard Gaines, Fred MacMurrary's boss on 'Double Indemnity') fires him, as the company's been making a loss for quite some time already. Jarvis himself is also broke, but he has a plan. And for that plan to work, he needs Wilson, so he has a proposition for him... Jarvis intends to kill himself so his family can collect his life insurance policy, but that won't happen if his death is ruled a suicide. So he needs Wilson to make it look like a murder, and he will give him $10,000 in exchange for helping him. Wilson declines, but later that evening Jarvis forces his hand by announcing he's going through with his plan. Wilson rushes over to the Jarvis mansion to dissuade him from it, but he's too late. Jarvis is dead on the floor with a gun in his hand... and an envelope containing $10,000 with Wilson's name on it on the desk. Wilson reluctantly does his part, shoots the gun a few more times and gets rid of it. He hides the $10,000 at home, unsure of what he should do... The new boss, and former adversary of Jarvis within the company, Timothy Hearne (Henry O'Neill) gives Wilson his job back, with a promotion and a hefty pay raise even, and his family thinks all is well again... But Wilson's already conflicted mind gets even more conflicted when police lieutenant Webb (Harry Morgan) views Hearne as the prime suspect for Jarvis's murder...

While Martha Scott is the top-billed name on the movie's poster, her role in this movie is fairly minimal. Scott made a big entrance into Hollywood with her first movie, 1940's 'Our Town', which landed her an Oscar nomination. Her star didn't shine bright for too long however, but apparently bright enough for RKO to bill her over the principal actor of he movie, Jeffrey Lynn. She is decent enough but given she doesn't have to do much here, I wouldn't expect anything less, hah...

I wasn't very familiar with Jeffrey Lynn ('Whiplash', 'The Roaring Twenties') and this movie didn't exactly peak my interest either. In a way his performance is perfect for the character he's playing, as it's meek, unremarkable and bland, but if that's all there is to it... Lynn reminded me here of another everyman actor I find bland, Macdonald Carey... Actors who might do a great job, but the second the movie's over you've forgotten about the part already. And given he's the principal character in this movie, that's not a good sign! Sorry to all the Jeffrey Lynn and/or Macdonald Carey fans out there!

Harry Morgan is the name I was most familiar with, as he's got quite the noir resume. He played in films such as 'Moonrise', 'Appointment With Danger' and 'Dark City'. But he's probably most famous for playing Bill Gannon on the late 60's version of the iconic TV series 'Dragnet'. He plays a limp police officer here, who's cane is quite helpful in the movie's climax. Morgan could play these type of tough police officer serious in his sleep, it's always a pleasure to see his face pop up.

When you see the family's son, you'd be forgiven to think it's Billy Chapin who played the kid in 'The Night Of The Hunter'. In fact, it isn't him but his older brother Michael Chapin. The resemblance is uncanny however. And if I'm being honest, based on these 2 movies, Michael was the better (kid) actor between the two them. His character idolizes Webb, making Sam even more uncomfortable whenever Jarvis's death is brought up around the dinner table, as the son reminds him how good of a detective Webb is. It's a nice touch to the movie.

Visually there isn't a lot noirness going on here. The plot is pretty noir for the first half of the movie, but it wraps things too neatly and happily for Sam Wilson at the end... I can't say I was surprised, or even all that disappointed. The movie does move at a nice pace, and it does twist and turn a bit. It's a solid but very minor film noir.

While I doubt many people who saw this movie at the time will remember it, this movie does have a genuine claim to fame. In the season 3 episode 'The Days Dwindle Down' of the iconic TV series 'Murder, She Wrote', 3 of the principal actors of the movie (Jeffrey Lyn, Martha Scott and Harry Morgan) reprise their roles. While the episode retains the basic premise of the movie, and also uses footage from the movie as flashbacks, it does not use the movie's ending. Instead Wilson ended up taking the rap, spending 30 years in prison. And now that he's out, his wife asks Jessica Fletcher to find out what really happened to Jarvis and to finally clear Wilson's name. As with most MSW episodes, it's a lovely episode and using 'Strange Bargain' as well as several of its actors as an integral part of the episode really makes this a standout episode. I highly recommend it!

7-/10

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Post Office Investigator (1949)

By the time the 50s were arriving, Poverty Row studios were cranking out 'federal investigator' type movies like clockwork. Most of them can be easily recognized by their title, such as 'Federal Agent At Large' which I reviewed here, 'Customs Agent', 'Insurance Investigator', 'Secret Service Investigator' and 'Western Pacific Agent', all made between 1948 and 1951. Republic probably made the most of these movies, and on average also the best. The previously mentioned and reviewed 'Federal Agent At Large' wasn't one of the better ones, but this one is a good example of why these movies can be a lot of fun.

The movie starts with the following message, which in tone was no different than how a lot of these other movies start out, but somehow it's more comical... You decide:
Stamp collecting is the international hobby of an estimated fifteen million people. Small boys and millionaires pursue it with equal zest, finding in it pleasure, education, and a form of savings.

Collectors, with millions of dollars invested in their hobby, are ever on the lookout for rare and priceless stamps... and so, sometimes, are criminals.
In this case, the criminal is George Zelger (Marcel Journet) who poses as a wealthy stamp collector. He is in cahoots with auction house employee Clara Kelso (Audrey Long) to steal an expensive stamp during an auction. The idea is simple, Clara switches the stamp with a forgery and Zelger's associate mails the real stamp to Zelger's home address. However, Clara's boyfriend has an even better idea, what if they steal the letter before it is picked up by the mailmen, and sell the stamp themselves? That way they can get all the money for themselves rather than only a small cut. So Clara convinces the mailmen collecting the mail to give her back the letter. One of the mailmen, Bill Mannerson (Warren Douglas) tries to get a date with Clara, and she gives him a phoney address. When the police figure out mailing the stamp would be the best way to get it out of the building unnoticed they interrogate the mailmen. Knowing they would lose their job or worse if they explain they gave the letter back, which is against postal regulations, they lie. Instead they decide to check out the address Clara gave for their date and there they find secretary April Shaughnessy (Jeff Donnell). A casual remark by April makes Bill remember the mailing address of the letter they gave back, and they head to Zelger's address who is beginning to suspect Clara double-crossed him...

The movie's plot is more intricate than most of these movies, which tend to be a bit crude plot-wise. Here however, the double-cross Clara pulls off adds some tension and intrigue to the movie. It makes things slightly more complicated with more separate parties involved, and as a result, the movie focuses less, or really hardly at all, on the federal aspect of the investigation, but on Bill, Clara and Zegler. It's a minor thing but it works really well for this movie. It does make the admittedly top-notch poster feel a bit weird however. The toughguy on the left is meant to portray one of the agents investigating the case, but he plays only a minor role in the movie. I can agree with the artist however that his face is far more interesting and rugged than Warren Douglas', but it's Douglas who's the main actor here together with Audrey Long, who is the dame holding the gun in the poster.

Neither Warren Douglas nor Audrey Long are household names, and in the case of Douglas that makes sense. Douglas is too light-weight and milquetoast to be a proper noir leading man, but his casual, inoffensive acting is good enough for these noir-light crime movies. Douglas had a long but unremarkable acting career, but as of 1950 he also found steady work as a screenwriter, both for movies such as the noir 'Cry Vengeance' which he co-wrote and also played a part in, and for TV series such as 'Bonanza'. Audrey Long on the other hand had what it takes to be a noir dame, and she had had her chance already, first in the Lawrence Tierney classic 'Born To Kill', and then co-starring opposite Steve Brodie in 'Desperate', an underrated noir directed by the great Anthony Mann. Her career never really took off tho, and she was stuck playing in B-movies.

But the face that is most familiar to the casual viewer will likely be that of Jeff Donnell, who played one of Humphrey Bogart's friends in the classic noir 'In A Lonely Place' from 1950. Born Jean Marie Donnell, she gave herself the nickname Jeff, and it stuck. She steals every scene she is in with her bumbling and infectious acting. She's got a bit of a 'girl next door' quality to her and looks like she could be Gloria Grahame's more wholesome sister. The two were actually friends in real life, but unlike Grahame and like Long, her career unfortunately never really took off and she was a supporting actress for most of her career.

It should come as no surprise that this movie zips by, it is just shy of an hour long. Director George Blair and director of photography John MacBurnie also worked on the aforementioned 'Fderal Agent At Large' as well as a boatload of other movies. Their professionalism shines through here as well, if you just remember that on Poverty Row professionalism equates to 'getting things done as quickly and as cheaply as possible'. Which is not a bad thing if you're into these no/low budget crime movies like I am! They even manage to make the nighttime scenes, especially those happening inside cars, look pretty noir with a lot of shadows and blocked out parts. The best shot of the movie comes when April is following Clara around after accidentally bumping into her and they're inside a metro station. April keeps an eye on Clara via her make-up mirror, which is visualized quite nicely.

This is not a hidden gem. But it is entertaining and fast-paced, which is not a bad thing. It is a typically well-made, unremarkable but also inoffensive, noir-ish crime movie which came a dime a dozen. And in this case, it's above average. If you have an hour or so to waste, you could do a lot worse than watching this movie.

6+/10