A dark night and an empty city street is how this one starts. A cab driven by Elisha Cook Jr. comes roaring down the street when a man suddenly staggers out in front of him. Cook nails the guy straight on. Pow! He gets out to have a look and finds him dead. Cook takes a quick look around to see if there are any witnesses before leaping back in his cab and racing off. It is too late. There was a witness and the cops have been called.
The cops give the body the once over and discover that besides getting nailed by the cab, the man has been shot. Cook is soon grabbed up by Ray Teal in a unbilled bit as a detective. After being delivered to the chief homicide inspector, Donald MacBride, Cook caves like a house of cards and admits to the hit and run. The cops however know what really killed the man was the bullet in his chest and just want to ask Cook some questions.
The dead man, a local doctor, was running a somewhat shady practice, abortions, gunshot wounds etc. It turns out there is a large group of people who disliked the doc enough to bump him off. Chief among these are his recently dumped girlfriend, Martha O'Driscoll, and her ex, the just out of prison Tom Neal.
What the police do not know is that the doc was a collector of rare books, and at the time of the murder, he was being robbed of a rare "Gutenberg Bible". John Berkes plays the 2nd story man who is employed by gangster Marc Lawrence. Lawrence planned to sell the book for a cool 75 grand. Berkes delivers the book to his boss and gets a five grand payoff.
Not ten steps out of Lawrence's place and John Law latch onto Berkes. He is always grabbed up when the old usual suspects call is out. Berkes is put through a vigorous round of the third degree by a group of detectives led by Robert Armstrong. Someone is dead and where the hell would a low-life like Berkes get 5 grand they ask. Berkes keeps quiet knowing full well Lawrence would have him killed if he spilled.
Meanwhile, back at MacBrides office, Neal and O'Driscoll are likewise getting worked over by the inspector. "Where were you and do you have any witnesses?" None can be produced and the cops believe they have their man in Neal. He was annoyed that O'Driscoll had been stepping out with the doc while he was in prison. Neal has also been fingered by the porter of the doctor's building. The porter says Neal had been there that night.
By now our friend Marc Lawrence has found out that his man Berkes is in jail. He sends his mouthpiece over to spring him. Berkes decides that Lawrence must believe he ratted him out, and is getting him released in order to kill him. Berkes now spills to the police and tells all he knows.
While he was pulling the book job he saw the porter shoot the doc. The porter it seems was blackmailing the doctor's back door patients. He has been running a pay or have your name given to the papers type racket. The doctor had tumbled to the porter's play and was shot and dumped in front of Cook's cab to shut him up.
Neal is released and heads off with O'Driscoll while Berkes, Lawrence and the porter all head for the big house. While Neal and O'Driscoll are the headliners, the film really belongs to Berkes and MacBride. Also in the cast are Peter Whitney, Samuel H. Hinds and Douglas Fowley.
This was the first film Neal made after his turn in Detour. It is a much better film than I make it sound.
The film was directed by Will Jason, a bottom b vet with films with lame titles like, 10 Cents a Dance, Tahiti Nights and Sarge goes to College.
The story was provided by Gordon Kahn who also wrote the noir Ruthless and Her Kind of Man. The screenplay was supplied by George Bricker who also worked on noir such as Cry Vengeance, Loophole, Man in the Dark, Macao, The Whip Hand, Inside Job and Roadblock.
D of P was Maury Gertsman . His work includes Singapore, Rogues' Regiment, Johnny Stool pigeon, The Glass Web and One Way Street.
A real rocket paced crime thriller with a bit of noir as well as a dash of comedy supplied by Donald MacBride's over acting. An excellent time-waster! (b/w)