Allied Artists put out this low budget crime/noir film starring, Craig Stevens, Joyce Holden, Tom Hubbard, Edward Norris, Leonard Penn, Claire Regis and Richard Benedict.
The film, set in Los Angeles, has Edward Norris and Claire Regis in a less than happy marriage. Miss Regis is annoyed with her hubby, Norris, for his daily round with the whiskey bottle. Norris tells her that it is her stepping out behind his back that has driven him to drink. During today's argument, Regis threatens Norris with divorce and wants every dime he has. Norris grabs his briefcase and storms out to hit the bar. The next thing the viewer sees is Miss Regis on the wrong end of four bullets.
The following day, Craig Stevens, an investigator for the District Attorney gets a call from Edward Norris. The two men know happen to each other. Norris tells Stevens that he needs help. He has just woken up with a dilly of a hangover, but the real problem is that his wife is dead on the floor beside him.
Stevens grabs his partner, Tom Hubbard and race to the scene. Beside the dead woman there is a recently fired pistol. Under questioning from Stevens and the Police, Norris swears he remembers nothing. He tells Stevens that he left the house when Miss Regis had mentioned divorce. He had 30,000 in bonds in his briefcase and he wanted to hide them from Regis. After hitting the bar he recalls nothing. The Police do a gunpowder residue test and find that Norris had fired a gun recently.
The Police decide this is more than enough evidence to put the pinch on Norris. The "I don't recall anything" defence does not wash. He is charged with murder. The crime lab boys establish the time of death and Norris cannot provide an alibi for the time. It is off for a visit to the crowbar hotel for Norris. His pal, Stevens, thinks that there is something amiss here. Surely if Norris wanted to kill his wife, he would have arranged an alibi.
Stevens roots around for any possible witnesses. The bartender at the club tells Stevens that Norris was plastered when he "poured" him into a cab. The cab driver his soon found and questioned. The driver tells the Law that he had dropped Norris off at a pawn shop. A visit to the pawnshop soon has the owner saying that he had sold a gun to Norris. The man, Jack George, identifies both Norris and the pistol. It looks like Norris is going to pay a visit to "sparky" the electric chair.
At court, the only friendly witness is a Norris's doctor, Hal Gerard, who tells the court that Norris suffers from bouts of alcoholic amnesia. The jury is not inclined to believe this and it looks grim for Norris.
Now we have the last minute surprise witness. Joyce Holden, a teller at a bank, shows up with a time stamped card that was signed by Norris for a safety deposit box. This is where Norris had put the 30 grand in bonds. It shows that Norris was miles away at the time of his wife's death. The case is chucked out and Norris is free. Norris treats his lawyer, Leonard Penn, Stevens and pretty blonde, Joyce Holden all to a big party at a club. Lots of bubbly and great grub all on Norris.
Norris leaves early when he sees a man, Richard Benedict, watching him from a table across the way. Stevens notices the eye contact between Norris and Benedict, and it starts him to thinking. Norris is now free but they still need to find the killer of Miss Regis. What if Norris had set up the whole amnesia gag and had someone else do the deed. Stevens drives Miss Holden home and the two agree to a future date.
The next day, Stevens tells his boss about his suspicions in regard to Norris. Double jeopardy is now in play in regards to Norris. He cannot be charged twice for the same crime. Stevens has his staff look into everything again. They also have a look for any hit men types who might be in town.
Stevens is right in his thinking here. The viewer finds out that Norris did hire out of town gunman, Benedict to kill his wife. Norris saw no reason to share his assets with Regis in a divorce. The amnesia bit was all a gag to have double jeopardy attached.
Things now come to a head as Norris is blackmailed by the hit-man, Benedict, for a larger fee. Soon everyone is involved with Miss Holden being held at gunpoint and Craig Stevens doing the timely rescue bit. Both Norris and Benedict end up with a severe overdose of heavy metal.
The film is not a burn burner by any means, but there are a few good scenes. The exchanges between Stevens and his partner, Tom Hubbard are well handled, with dialogue being delivered rapid fire like an episode of DRAGNET.
The film needed a firmer hand than William "One Shot" Beaudine in the director's chair. For only having a 65 minute runtime, the film has too much dead time. The look of the film though is good with one time Oscar nominated, Virgil Miller handling the cinematography.
Craig Stevens would become famous for his role as PETER GUNN in the series of the same name. Richard Benedict had a long career (1944-1983) playing villains for the most part. He is one of those bit players one can never put a name to. He later moved into directing television as well.
The story and screenplay were written by Joe Pagano. Pagano wrote the novel and screenplay for the superb film noir, THE SOUND OF FURY.