Sunday, February 07, 2010


A crazy little B-movie which moves like gangbusters for the first half, then stops dead in its tracks for the last half. Michael Ames is a muckraking reporter who is out to get a crooked politician, but his goons get Ames first, knocking him unconscious, putting him behind a car wheel, soaking him in alcohol to make it seem like he was drunk, and sending the car out into traffic. Three people are killed and Ames is arrested. His cell mate in the county jail (John Harmon) includes him in a breakout plan, but when the guards detain Harmon, Ames escapes on his own, earning Harmon's undying hatred. Ames and his pregnant wife (Julie Bishop) make a run for it, ending up in a small town where a kindly old doctor delivers her baby and gets Ames a job as a reporter for the local paper. Suddenly, it's five years later, and the narrative stops dead in its tracks so their "cute" little daughter (Patty Hale) can sing a clever but irritating song about nursery rhymes at her birthday party. Harmon, now a hobo, passes through their town, recognizes Ames, and tries to blackmail him through his wife, but the movie never recovers from the "cute" interplay between the kid and the doc, and the kid and the butler (Sam McDaniel). The first half feels like a different movie from the second; besides the speedy pace, the first half is full of interesting shots with an almost expressionistic use of shadows. All that vanishes in the pedestrian second half. Throughout, the acting is weak. Ames (who later took the name Tod Andrews) and Bishop are deadly dull, and the only standouts are McDaniel (brother of Hattie McDaniel) and Harmon. It's almost worth seeing for the speedy first half-hour and for Harmon's intense but unshowy performance. During the final hostage-situation shootout, Harmon actually says, "I'm comin' out, coppers, so put those rods away!" [TCM]

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