Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This Poverty Row detective film, from little-known outfit Screen Guild Productions, is dreadful, but for a B-movie buff like me, still has moments of interest. While struggling detective Tom Neal is out of his office, his secretary/fiancée Pamela Blake takes on a case for him; a mysterious man (Leonard Penn) with an obviously fake goatee says he wants her to get photographic evidence of his wife's adulterous activities. He tells Blake where to take the picture and even gives her a hat box with a hidden camera to use. However, when Blake goes to take the photo, it turns out that the box is rigged with a gun, and she shoots the wife. The DA takes her into custody, but Neal talks him into letting her go and letting him try to snare the real killer. With equal parts help and hindrance from bumbling sidekick Allen Jenkins, Neal does eventually clear Blake and the cops get Penn.

The plot is serviceable but with a weak script and a 45 minute running time, this ends up feeling more like a summary of a movie with most of the action and explanatory detail left out; other weaknesses include the cardboard sets and the grating background music. I like both Neal and Jenkins (pictured), though their best days were behind them. Jenkins was a reliable supporting comic relief figure in dozens of Warner Brothers films of the 30's (42ND STREET, MAYOR OF HELL, SH! THE OCTOPUS) whose career was revitalized later in TV. Neal, a handsome tough-guy actor who never made it out of B-films (DETOUR, FIRST YANK INTO TOKYO), was only in his mid-30s here but he's looking rather seedy already--his career was essentially over a few years later thanks to some real-life bad behavior. Blake is totally forgettable, though comic actress Virginia Sale tries hard for some laughs as a burger slinger and Jenkins' long-suffering gal. The most notable part of the film is at the very beginning, when the four leads introduce themselves directly to the camera, first in character, then with Neal giving their real names. [DVD]

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