Monday, August 21, 2006


An average crime melodrama from MGM, the middle portion of which comes off like a B-movie remake of I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG. Edward G. Robinson has a small but thriving business fighting oil-well fires; the opening segment showing him and his assistant (Guinn Williams) on the scene of a particularly dangerous fire is just about the best part of the movie. One day, out of the blue, a shadowy figure from Robinson's past (Gene Lockhart) shows up. He knows that years ago, Robinson, wrongly accused of embezzlement, escaped from a chain gang, and he tries to blackmail him to keep his secret. (And as if that's not enough villainy, we come to find out that Lockhart was responsible for the crime of which Robinson was accused.) After various maneuvers and double-crosses, Robinson is sent back to the chain gang and Lockhart winds up with Robinson's lucrative business. When Robinson finds out, he escapes yet again and has a final confrontation with Lockhart. Robinson, as always, is good, but Lockhart, in an unusual bad guy role as the slimy blackmailer, is the reason to watch the picture; it's fun to watch him shift personalities depending on how he thinks he can best get sympathy. Ruth Hussey has the relatively thankless role of Robinson's wife, and child actor Bobs Watson works up a few tears now and then as their son. The chain gang scenes in the middle bog the proceedings down a bit, but the opening and closing are exciting. [TCM]

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