In the midst of this, there are still some unalloyed triumphs...read on.
*Woman in the Dark, 1952, George Blair, x, 60, 2, 6.1
horn-5 26 November 2005
Following a news report that a fabulous jewel collection, called "Unclaimed Cargo", will be on display at the Waldorf Jewelry Company, a city alderman and secret underworld gang leader, Nick Petzik (Peter Brocco), plans a gigantic jewel robbery. To ensure the success of his scheme, Petzik chooses three of his most capable men for the job; "Dutch" Bender (John Doucette), "Slats" Hylan (Richard Irving), and Kirsten, a crooked official of the jewel company. Petzik intends to sell the jewels back to Waldorf's insurance company; and to force the insurance company to play ball with him, Petzik enlists the aid of Gino Morello (Richard Benedict), a young and reckless Italian boy, whose brother Phil(Rick Vallin)is the lawyer for the insurance company. Petzik is sure that once the 3-billed Phil learns that his 4th-Billed brother is one of the thieves, he will do business with the gang without asking any questions.
But...Anna Reichardt (Penny Edwards), a charming Austrian girl who---with her aunt Maria---runs a pastry shop on the ground floor of the Morello apartment building...is a witness to the robbery and spots Gino as one of the robbers.
Then it gets complicated...and messy. Barbara Billingsley is a socialite engaged to Phil, who is the nominal action hero in this one, because Ross Elliott, who should have been, plays the Priest brother of Phil and Gino, and only provides lectures. This means of course, Penny Edwards has to end up in somebody's arms, and Rick Vallin is the only qualified Morello brother. And he has to suddenly break his engagement to the surprised Barbara Billingsley right before THE END, in order for Penny Edwards to have somebody to kiss before THE END.
Hoodlum Empire, 1952, Joseph Kane,, 98, 8, 5.9
He Wanted To Go Straight
boblipton 26 January 2020
John Russell was in the rackets, working for his uncle, Luther Adler, and Claire Trevor was his girl. Army service in the Second World War changed him, and he wants to go straight and marry French girl Vera Ralston. But the mob is expanding its grip and they come to the small city where he, his wife and two children live. So is a U.S. Congressional hearing under the control of Senator Brian Donleavy, Russell's former commanding officer.
This is an ambitious movie for Republic Pictures and director Joseph Kane, about a thinly disguised Kefauver Commission, and mobsters like Forrest Tucker. Although it has the violence of an exploitation picture, it's more in the lines of an expose film. It's also edited with frequent flashbacks that makes the story tough to follow at times, and despite the Italian names of the mobsters, the actors are anything but Italian in appearance or behavior. Even so, it's an honest effort, a lot like the 'small guy fights the crooks' movies that the independents turned out in the 1930s, but with superior production values and actors.
Lady Possessed, 1952, Roy Kellino, William Spier, 87, 2, 6.0
So much potential, but falls flat, like its star's singing.
mark.waltz 18 April 2019
A truly weird cinematic experience and hopefully the only film where I ever have to witness James Mason singing. With a title like this, I was hoping for a return to the type of film that Mason had done at Gainsborough in the mid-1940s with Margaret Lockwood. What follows is a dull and talky study of the rumored possession of Mason's late wife whom June Havoc witnesses while on a gurney carrying has dying wife out of a hospital. Havoc and husband (Stephen Dunne) are mourning the loss of their unborn baby and coincidentally rent Mason's large home after he moves out, unable to deal with his wife's death. sleeping in the same bed. The wife did, Havoc begins to believe that she is possessed by the wife's spirit and must deliver a message to Mason. After seeing a medium (Faye Compton), Havoc begins to see Mason socially and a weird bond is created between them, threatening her marriage, and ultimately Mason's sanity when he discovers truths about his late wife.
Probably on paper, this sounded interesting, but on film, it is a dull and pretentious bore. Much of the conversation between havoc and Mason is pointless to the main plot, and every time he breaks into song, you just have to chuckle. That is an inappropriate emotion for a serious plot like this, and nothing is really gained by their relationship in the end. Steven Geray adds some impact as the doctor who treated Mason's wife and now treats Havoc for her emotional issues. The gothic melodrama brings up memories of the classics like Wuthering Heights, "Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre", but that ends up being more detrimental to the overall impact of the story. The conclusion is a complete let-down.
Woman They Almost Lynched, 1953, Allan Dwan,, 90, 7, 6.6
Yankee on the right, Swanee on the left, Freudian slip in the middle.
mark.waltz 30 December 2015
It's a pre-Johnny Guitar battle of the bitches in this rather odd Western of a catfight that takes 90 minutes to unleash any fur. Set in a town where the woman owned saloon is built right on the Mason/Dixon line where two flags of battling brothers reveals the hatred between a once friendly public space became a political battleground. Joan Leslie, billed lower than others, is a feisty saloon owner who puts up with no nonsense with the still battling soldiers from the civil war who haven't ended the feud with the flag of surrender. Along comes a gang of the most famous bandits of the era, the most dangerous of them being the vindictive Audrey Totter who resents Leslie for beating the cheap out of her after she caused trouble by singing a confederate song. A gun duel follows, leaving one of the two women at the mercy of the other as a posse arrives to get ahold of the bandits, dead or barely alive.
This feminist themed western has its admirers, but I found it a bit pretentious in spite of good intentions. Certainly, women gained social power during the times of war when men were away but were reluctant to give it up when the men returned. I was rather put off by Totter's masculine but jealous female who simply started the feud with the livelier Miss Leslie simply out of envy.
This is a case of mistaken identity mixed with female protection when a of a sudden Leslie disguises Totter as a saloon singer, all of a sudden bringing out her feminine side.
I am surprised that Republic producer Herbert Yates didn't cast Vera Grubs Ralston in Totter's part, making her resemble her with the strange close- ups which did nothing to accelerate her looks. The male characters are secondary here even though Brian Donlevy is billed above both Totter and Leslie. Jim Davis of "Dallas" fame and John Lund are among the other men. I will single out Nina Varela as the town's imperious matron who steals every moment she is on screen, while Minerva Urecal and Ellen Colby are among the other town biddies. This is an interesting failure that at times seems to be unintentionally funny.
City That Never Sleeps, 1953, John H. Auer,, 90, 37, 6.8
A satisfying, big-city movie--sort of a Grand Hotel or Dinner At Eight gone noir
bmacv23 August 2004
Contrary to the croonings of Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra, The City That Never Sleeps is not New York, New York but Chicago, Illinois. At least it is in John H. Auer's 1953 movie of that name, sort of a noir-inflected Grand Hotel or Dinner At Eight, that opens and closes with floodlit vistas of the wedding-cake Wrigley Building. Several characters' lives intersect in an urban crime drama that even offers a touch of the fanciful.
Gig Young, at the center, plays a cop who's dissatisfied with his job and with his marriage (his wife, Paula Raymond, makes more money than he does). Off hours, he hangs around a strip club called The Silver Frolics on Wabash Avenue to see, both on stage and backstage, headliner Mala Powers. That relationship is a rocky as his marriage, and she's as unhappy with her lot as he with his (`Whaddaya want me to do? Crawl into a deep freeze?' she taunts him during yet another breakup). Then Young heads to the precinct for the graveyard shift, riding in a prowl car with a new partner he's never met before (Chill Wills, who also plays the unseen `Voice of the City').
During Young's nocturnal tour he meets up again and again with the various players in the plot. There's rich, crooked lawyer Edward Arnold, who blackmails him into burglarizing some incriminating papers; his two-timing wife, Marie Windsor; former magician turned criminal William Talman; his own brother (Ron Hagerthy) who's now Talman's apprentice; his pop (Otto Hulett), a police veteran; and a `mechanical man' (Gregg Warren) who entertains passersby in the Silver Frolics' window.
Some of the ties among the characters are up front, others furtive, to be doled out as the plots thicken. By the end (Poverty Row having learned the lessons MGM taught a couple of decades earlier in the titles cited above), there's tragedy and heartache, reappraisals and reconciliations. There's even a character who vanishes as mysteriously as he materialized--a whiff of the supernatural which curiously fails to leave any influence on the way the stories unfold.
The City That Never Sleeps shows the right breadth for a big, urban story – from Arnold's moderne penthouse to Young's middle-class flat to the raffish alleys running off Wabash Avenue. Director of photography John Russell (later to film Psycho) helps Auer out with some crafty touches (a telephone dial glowing from a flashlight shone upon it comes to mind). It's not a haunting movie, but it's a satisfying one--a title that did Republic Pictures proud.
The Shanghai Story, 1954, Frank Lloyd,, 90, 5, 5.8
Tension in Shanghai
jjnxn-1 26 December 2014
Run of the mill prisoner of war film is elevated by the snappiness of the direction from Frank Lloyd, director of the first Mutiny on the Bounty with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and the cast.
Set mostly amongst a group of enemy aliens confined to a hotel in the title city Lloyd keeps the viewer engaged by having the action move repeatedly from room to room with occasional scenes elsewhere.
That's fine as far as it goes but the other element that makes the film enjoyable is the competence of the main players. Edmond O'Brien is impassioned as the doctor who becomes the focal point of the story with Whit Bissell and a very young Richard Jaeckel adding fine support as two fellow prisoners. Also standing out and looking very beautiful is Ruth Roman. Never given her due she was a fierce screen presence elevating the often middling material she was handed as she does here.
Nothing special but if you like this type of adventure/war picture an agreeable time passer.
Hell’s Half Acre, 1954, John H. Auer,, 90, 14, 6.2
Every major city must have a Casbah.
mark.waltz 23 November 2013
There's something to be said for putting Wendell Corey in Hawaiian shirts; It makes him seem alive rather than the boring suits he wore in films such as The File on Thelma Jordan and Harriet Craig. Here, he's a victim of blackmail whose girlfriend kills the blackmailer and ends up being killed herself with Corey blamed for the first murder. When his ex-wife Evelyn Keyes learns about this, she heads to Hawaii just three days after getting re-married to help him and tell him about his son which he seems never to have known about. Along with a rather chatty taxi driver (Elsa Lancaster, cast in a thankless role even in spite of being given third billing above the titles), Keyes ends up in Hell's Half Acre, a hiding spot for criminals and even works as a taxi dancer briefly to make contacts. Corey's business partner (Philip Ahn) is obviously involved in something shady, while Keyes must deal with a ton of creepy characters, including Jesse White who drunkenly attempts to rape her.
This is a film that is sometimes a bit hard to take, too sleazy to be believable yet not sleazy enough to not be. The characters are mostly one-note, and the original murder (done by Nancy Bates, quickly dispatched soon afterwards) is never set up to give us a potent reason behind the blackmail. Marie Windsor, as White's floozy wife, at times looks exactly like Bates did before getting bumped, so that's another detail that can't help but go unnoticed. Charlie Chan's "number one son," Keye Luke, is the only element of nobility in the film as the police detective determined to help Corey prove his innocence if only he'll stay put. Ahn's seemingly classy villain is given an obvious evil temper, yet somehow, the motivations, even if sinister, are never convincing. As far as film noirs go, this is one of the weaker ones, and you may long for a classic episode of Hawaii Five-O after this to get the bad taste out of your head.
The finale is so unconvincing that I spent a few minutes shaking my head with its unbelievability and supposedly honorable ridiculousness. Even though Corey has sprung to life a bit in this and Keyes is a lovely heroine, the enormous number of improbabilities here make this one for definite warning.
Offbeat and overlooked film noir set in Hawaiian Territory
bmacv 8 February 2004
Hell's Half Acre (habitués just call it `the Acre') is a rabbit warren of tenements and dens of iniquity in post-war Honolulu--a South-Seas casbah. It's also the title of John H. Auer's movie which has the distinction – between the lapse of the Charlie Chan cycle and the arrival of TV dramas like Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I. – of being the only film noir set in the (then) Hawaiian Territory. A little clumsy and four-square (with little of visual interest), it boasts an offbeat story line and a dandy cast.
Stateside, widowed young mother Evelyn Keyes hears a recording by a songwriter from the Islands who, she's told, has been imprisoned for killing a crime lord. Certain phrases in the song remind her of her husband, presumed lost on the Arizona during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She breaks off her engagement and flies to Honolulu; her guide to the local culture is cabdriver Elsa Lanchester, a `character.' Police Chief Keye Luke arranges for Keyes to see the mystery man (Wendell Corey), but when the prisoner learns that his current girlfriend (Nancy Gates) has been murdered, he escapes custody. Keyes penetrates deeper into the Acre to find him, while his underworld associates, their greed and curiosity piqued, try to find her....
All too briefly, Hell's Half Acre features Marie Windsor, as the wife of fish-and-poi slinger Jesse White (she's two-timing him with sinister Philip Ahn). The crummy rooms Windsor and White occupy in the Acre are one of three main locales, the others being Corey's Waikiki beach house and The Polynesian Paradise, the nightclub he owns (technical advisor to the film was Don The Beachcomber). There's an elevated quotient of violence, particularly violence to women, and the somewhat murky story isn't sweetened up (though touristy material sometimes intrudes). Auer never got a crack at first-rate material to direct (maybe he never showed he could do it), but Hell's Half Acre holds its own against his better-known The City That Never Sleeps. Like so many of the better noirs, its surprises emerge from out of the past.
Hell’s Outpost, 1954, Joseph Kane,, 90, 4, 5.9
The tungsten war
bkoganbing 9 August 2015
Without John Wayne's services to sell and with his B picture cowboy stable from the Forties Herbert J. Yates and his Republic Studio was hanging on by a thread. But in their last years they were producing decent quality films of which Hell's Outpost was one.
Set in the modern west Rod Cameron plays a Korean war veteran recently discharged who is a mining engineer in civilian life. From a deceased war buddy Cameron heard about a rich tungsten holding that the buddy's father Chill Wills has, but is being squeezed by the richest and meanest man in town John Russell.
Cameron cuts himself in on a share. He also cuts himself in on Russell's girlfriend Joan Leslie and that makes the war between these two personal.
Russell is one swaggering lout, a truly hateful villain. But Cameron himself is a flawed hero. That makes for some interesting issues for those who would like to support Cameron.
Other people to note in the cast are Kristine Miller as Russell's half sister and distinctly better half and Jim Davis who is a crusading small town newspaper editor.
Hell's Outpost is a nice B film, the stuff that was being shown regularly now on television and would be making Yates more money had he had the foresight to go into the new medium.
Johnny Guitar, 1954, Nicholas Ray,, 110, 127, 7.7
The More Excess The Better
dougdoepke13 October 2013
Hard to know what to say about this florid concoction except that it's truly one of a kind. Taken as a western, it's plain god-awful. Taken as parody of a western, it's sharp as a doorknob. Taken as an experiment in Technicolor, I can think of cheaper ways. To me, the movie is best taken as a collection of insider indulgence. How else to explain Crawford's Park Avenue get-up, or her desert island casino, or McCambridge's manly fierceness, or a bookish bank-robber, or a showdown for toughest woman of Lesbos.
Now, scholars can play around with symbolism all they want. But first, the subject has to be interesting enough to play with. Seems to me there are worthier movie subjects than this one for analysis. Sure, I've read how the story's really a color-coded allegory of McCarthyism, with the black-clad posse as HUAC and the bank robbers as commies. After all, the Dancin' Kid is left-handed and the gang does stick together and they do rob banks. Probably this is as good a subtext reading as any, that is, if you're looking for some such. Me, I just take it as a slice of Hollywood weirdness with Crawford playing dress-up and in charge, with the estimable Nick Ray trailing somewhere behind.
Before Brokeback Mountain: Sexual Enigmas of the Old West
char treuse 23 March 2007
Johnny Guitar, as played by Sterling Hayden, is but a secondary character to Joan Crawford's Vienna in this star-vehicle Western unlike any other. Crawford's nemesis is Mercedes McCambridge's Emma Small, and all the menfolk kowtow to these women, basically p-whipped throughout. This 1954 film has correctly been called both an allegory about McCarthyism and a Freudian parable.
Crawford is referred to as "more man than woman" early in the film, but she becomes feminized by the closing credits as she smiles, staring lovingly into Johnny Guitar's eyes. Taking place over 3 days, Act 1/Day 1 is set almost completely within Vienna's saloon. We first see Vienna in a mannish black outfit: blouse, slacks & boots. Later, rekindling her affair with Johnny, she is seen in a burgundy nightgown under a parted black cape, her passion beginning to show. By the end of the second Act/Day 2, Vienna is dressed in a white gown, purified by the love she has cast out of her life. She becomes a Christ figure when betrayed by a Judas in her midst and sentenced to hang (crucifixion).
Rescued by Johnny, Crawford is resurrected and must don a man's outfit on the third Day/Act 3 -- yellow shirt, blue jeans -- and ultimately duel to the death with Emma, a mannish and sexually inhibited woman who may well be seen as her "other half," as they strap on their six-shooters. (Phallic symbolism anyone?) Character motivation in this film oftentimes seems demented and Joan's emotions turn on a dime. But the film's fascinating realism lies in its subtext of sexual identity.
A film in which the cowboys are named Dancing Kid, Corey, Turkey and Johnny Guitar, and in which the women exhibit more machismo than the men, is certainly toying with gender. Johnny Guitar plays and the Dancing Kid -- whose admiration for Johnny turns to aggression -- dances for him with Emma in a waltz of sexual ambiguity.
Vividly directed by Nicholas Ray, this is, in a sense, the "Brokeback Mountain" of its day; audacious and groundbreaking.
Make Haste to Live†, 1954, Willam A. Seiter,, 90, 10, 6.0
Southwestern noir grows muddled, implausible
bmacv 11 March 2002
The spooky opening sequence piques our appetite for Make Haste to Live. A sinister stranger looms in the bedroom where Dorothy McGuire tosses in restive sleep. The editor of a small-town newspaper in the New Mexico desert, she's being stalked by her husband, a gangster just released from the pen for murder -- HER murder. Seems that years before, in Chicago, a woman was killed in an rigged explosion; when the body was identified as hers, McGuire packed up and started a new life.
But having set up this intriguing situation, Make Haste to Live loses its way and ends up a muddled mess. When the husband (Steven McNally) insinuates himself into the household of McGuire and their teenage daughter, he's passed off as a black-sheep brother. And credulity gets strained way past the snapping point. McGuire flip-flops between resourceful adversary and the most feckless of battered wives; at times the two roil with hatred for one another but at others a light flirtatiousness enters their interactions. Any valid psychology in this, however, isn't worked out in dramatic terms; we get no sense of the hold McNally has over his wife, only that he wants to kill her and she seems willing to die.
A Bottomless Pit in an old Indian pueblo makes an early appearance but doesn't end up playing the role we come to expect it will; so the final resolution is contrived, coming not out of character but out of the blue. Moseying along from one thing to another, Make Haste to Live has no urgent destination in mind.
No Man’s Woman, 1955, Franklin Adreon,, 70, 15, 6.3
Vindictive wives can be so much fun!
mark.waltz22 September 2017
The wide eyed Marie Windsor has a blast in this deliciously fun B film noir as the long estranged wife of John Archer who refuses his settlement for a divorce when he falls in love with the sweet Nancy Gates. She then sets her eyes on Richard Crane, the hunky boyfriend of her naive assistant Jil Jamyn, utilize zing a fishing trip with him as an excuse for Jamyn to return her engagement ring. Slaps from Archer and a slap for Crane bring out more of the viper in Windsor, setting up plenty of motive for murder! Toss in Patric Knowles as Windsor's slimy art reporter lover, and the number of suspects expands greatly.
This mixture of soap opera and film noir (with comic dialog filled with innuendo and bitchy asides) is plenty of fun, fully in tuned with Republic Pictures' ideal of even making the most of their glorious "B" films, the highest grade of programmers in the film industry. Windsor has a field day as this aging seductress, willing to seduce the husband she hates if it served a purpose. I'm grateful that they didn't cast Vera Ralston in the Windsor role as the high rating I give this would have been cut in half. I only wish that there was another 20 minutes of what lead to the separation of Windsor and Archer, but what's there in the 70 minutes is delicious fun.
Double Jeopardy, 1955, R. G. Springsteen,, 70, 5, 6.3
Republic Pictures Last Gasp Crime Programmer
Henchman_Number1 17 August 2014
When real estate developer Emmett Devery (John Little) is charged with the murder of his alcoholic, unhappily married, former business associate (Robert Armstrong) who had been shaking him down to keep quiet about past dealings, his lawyer and future son-in-law Marc Hill (Rod Cameron) steps in to prove his innocence. Hill and his fiancé (Allison Hayes) try to unravel an extortion scheme launched by Armstrong and his gold-digging wife (Gale Robbins)
Double Jeopardy was helmed by veteran Republic Pictures director R. G. Springsteen. Springsteen who was better known for directing a string of Republic B-Western programmers, most notably the Rocky Lane series, does a good job in this gritty crime drama. Complete with blackmail, murder and duplicity, Double Jeopardy has the all the elements of later cycle noir. While the director, cast and crew do a nice job, the point A to point B script and short run time doesn't provide for much mystery or suspense.
By the mid 1950's Republic Pictures had been beset with a financial downturn due to the growing popularity television. Republic had dropped the number of productions down to almost half of what it was only a few years before. Bogged down by its low budget, even by Republic standards, Double Jeopardy, while technically competent, just doesn't ever seem to be able to get much traction, making for a passable but nondescript movie.
I Cover the Underworld, 1955, R. G. Springsteen,, 70, 0, 5.8
[no IMDB reviews]
John O'Hara, a divinity priest student endeavors to help the police, rolling up a gang of criminals. John poses as his twin brother Gunner O'Hara a gangster, who is in prison. John is finally accepted by the gang and he succeeds improving the efficiency of this gang by cooperating closely with other criminal gangs. John coerces them these gangs, keeping careful records of their various criminal activities. Problems for John and the police arise when Gunner O'Hara escapes from prison.
Secret Venture, 1955, R. G. Springsteen,, 70, 2, 5.9
Murder, kidnapping, spies, mystery, fake codes, wrestling, secret formulas and Music involving Big Ben striking Midnight.
horn-5 24 November 2005
Professor Henrik (Hugo Schuster), a world-famed scientist who holds the secret formula for a new type of jet fuel, returns to England, and his briefcase is switched with that of Ted O'Hara (Kent Taylor.)Henrik is met by his secretary , Joan Butler (Jane Hylton), but when she is called away Henrik is kidnapped by a gang, headed by a man called Zelinsky (Karel Stepanek.) O'Hara becomes acquainted with a Renee L'Epine (Kathleen Byron), who unknown to him, is a member of Zelinsky's gang. She and Squire Marlowe (Martin Boddey)take O'Hara, against his will, to Zlinsky's headquarters, and it is disclosed that they KNOW he has Henrik's briefcase---which is more than he knows---and are willing to pay him a considerable sum of money for it.
O'Hara gets in touch with Scotland Yard Inspector Dalton (John Boxer) and O'Hara tells Dalton that the name of Weber, an espionage agent, was mentioned by Zelinsky. The Inspector tells O'Hara to take the formula to Weber in Paris to negotiate with him. On the boat-train Renee and Dan Flemying (Maurice Kaufmann) take the formula from O'Hara and, arriving at Weber's establishment and have already handed it over to Otto Weber (Feredrick Walk), but they didn't have the code and O'Hara says he'll hop right back to England and get the code. A few days later, O'Hara follows Joan to Trafalgar Square, where he sees her hand something over to Marlowe...and, thusly, the plot thickens.
Track the Man Down, 1955, R. G. Springsteen,, 75, 4, 5.9
Uninspired but watchable crime drama
wilvram4 February 2015
The first of several crime supporting features to made in England by Republic Pictures, who brought over R.G. "Bud" Springsteen to direct. It begins quite promisingly with a robbery at that very 1950's venue, a greyhound stadium, with one of the gang making off with the loot. He leaves this with his girlfriend (Ursula Howells) but the police are soon on to her, and it's left to her innocent sister (Petula Clark) to deliver it to him as he flees from his fellow crooks and the law.
Trouble is, this situation is never developed very satisfactorily. Little is seen of the police after the first thirty minutes or so, Walter Rilla's gang leader hardly seems very dangerous and the thin story is padded out by a number of minor characters, presumably to provide comic relief. They include a middle-aged actress (Renee Houston) and two hackneyed stereotypes, a blustering newspaper editor, and an annoying stage drunk. There's the odd moment of tension, but the final scenes are hardly convincing. Lead actor Kent Taylor makes little impact, but then all the characters are constructed from the thinnest of cardboard. There's some good location shooting though and it's watchable if you don't expect too much.
City of Shadows, 1955, William Witney,, 70, 5, 5.5
Houston Branch could recycle with the best of them.
horn-5 10 December 2005
One only has to get about five minutes into the film before realizing that it is derivative of about two-dozen other films----low-ranking gangster adopts and educates a young street hoodlum only to have his protégé turn against him.
Dan Mason (Jimmy Grohman), a twelve-year-old newsboy, is an expert at figuring all the angles; so, when Kink (billed as Kay Kuter), veteran bartender at Billy's Steak House, catches him winning a big jackpot in the battered old slot machines that belong to seedy Tim Channing (Victor McLaglen), he not only defies them to do anything about it but shows Tim how he can corner the slot-machine racket and, at the same time, put his big-racketeer competitors Tony Finetti (Anthony Caruso) and Angelo Di Bruno (Richard Reeves) out of the running.
Thusly begins a partnership between the larcenous---but big-hearted---Tim and the precocious newsboy that lasts and prospers while he is growing up. (A plot premise not new then and still being used today.) Reaching college age Dan (now John Baer)studies law, showing a greater aptitude for finding loopholes in the law than an inclination to uphold it, despite the advice of his law-school Dean (John Maxwell) and the wholesome companionship of his roommate Roy Fellows (Nicolas Coaster), whose father (Charles Meredith) is a retired judge.
But Dan meets Roy's sister Fern (Kathleen Crowley)and his family, and the sincerity and friendliness of Roy's parents and the open adoration of Fern make him begin to work on the right side of the law instead of against it. So, after graduating from law school, Dan agrees to go to work for his old friend Tim...but only if it is honest work.
Tim promises him it will be, but then Finetti and Di Bruno show up from the old days and Tim is put into a compromising position..and things aren't going just exactly as Dan planned and Tim promised...oh, you've seen it several times and can finish it from here? Thought so.
Headline Hunters, 1955, William Witney,, 70, 3, 4.6
Interesting Republic newspaper drama, raises some important issues...
django-119 January 2003
By 1955 Republic was not the studio it had been during its heyday in the late 1930s and through the 1940s. They continued to produce well-made, low-budget programmers--although a lot fewer than in past years-- but their B series westerns were over, and the studio made its last two serials that year. Probably not much money or advertising was put behind HEADLINE HUNTERS, a film which after all played much like a TV show one could see for free at home.
However, director William Witney--the man who helmed so many classic serials and westerns at Republic--manages to coax good performances out of Rod Cameron as an alcoholic, one-time-hotshot reporter who has lost most of his principles over the years, and Ben Cooper (whose boyish enthusiasm reminds me of the young Tab Hunter, certainly not Brando or Dean!, but who is fine nonetheless) as a college-graduate cub reporter who has principles but lacks experience.
While much of the film is a predictable hard-boiled B-movie, the script sometimes rises above that and touches upon some important issues. Cooper's speech to Cameron after a joke Cameron plays on Cooper causes Cooper to be fired is an excellent statement that sounds like something out of Death of a Salesman, and the plot element about the Mexican-American man who is framed for a murder he knew nothing about, and who is taken advantage of because he doesn't speak English and because the court translator is crooked, got me hoping the film would veer off into some serious social commentary (unfortunately, it didn't). This is the kind of film which is a solid B programmer, but which has moments here and there that transcend the production-line nature of its making. Ben Cooper is actually the main star of the film, with Cameron first becoming an unintentional mentor and then a barrier to Cooper. In the end, both men grow considerably from the experience.
Nothing original here, but the film is better made than it needed to be and deals with questions still relevant today. (The film also features soon-to-be Stooge JOE BESSER in a colorful role as the coroner...)