Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Apparently, this is a remake of a 30's Bette Davis vehicle called SPECIAL AGENT which I have not seen. Taken on its own, it's a typically well-produced Warners B-movie, but not quite as enjoyable as others of its ilk; it stumbles in attempting to cram at least 90 minutes worth of plot into a movie that's only 54 minutes long, so while the narrative moves along at a fast clip, it winds up consisting mostly of short dialogue-heavy scenes of exposition with virtually no action until the last ten minutes. Because of a crackdown on gambling, mobster Gilbert Roland takes his operations to the sea on the SS Sylvania, just beyond the three-mile limit. When one of Roland's associates is caught embezzling, he winds up dead, triggering a desperate attempt by the law to get Roland any way they can. Although the gambling ship is beyond their grasp, if they can prove that the games are rigged, they can get him behind bars. Enterprising reporter Wayne Morris, who has a relatively friendly relationship with Roland, agrees to help the cops, and he gets his own help from Roland's secretary, Jane Wyman. He snaps pictures of the rigged games, but the case collapses when Roland's hired goons kidnap Wyman so she can't testify. Naturally, the good guys win out in the end. I like Wyman in her early spunky blond roles, and Morris (see picture at right) always makes a solid, handsome B-movie hero, but the two don't get much of a chance to develop chemistry because so much focus is on the heavy plotting at the expense of characterization. Way too much information is conveyed through close-ups of newspaper headlines; this would be a good movie to show beginning writing students since it falters by telling rather than showing. Still, the hour passes quickly and Morris, Wyman, and Roland are all fine; Wyman even survives having to deliver the old cliche, "It looks like curtains!" Also in the cast are John Litel as the D.A., Roger Pryor as one of Roland's doomed associates, and George Reeves in a one-line part as a reporter calling in a scoop. [TCM]

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