Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Reporter Elliot Reid is on a fishing vacation in Minnesota when he's caught in a storm and cuts his head on a rock. He makes it into the small town of Winnoga but is turned away from a gated compound called the Lodge. The town doctor sees to his injury and he learns the story of the town; just after the war, a virus destroyed all the fish in the lake, driving away industry and tourists. Reid takes a room at the local inn and decides to stay and write about the town, but soon discovers he's not welcome, with even the innkeeper (Raymond Burr, pictured with other town toughs) trying to get him to leave. There's a secret at the Lodge and, with the help of the doc's daughter (Carla Balenda), he is determined to discover it. Turns out the ghost town is actually a front for a Commie community; a Nazi scientist (Otto Waldis) who had done work on germ warfare has turned Communist and lives at the Lodge where he and his conspirators (most of the remaining townsfolk) are engaging in inhumane experiments to perfect weapons of terror they plan to unleash in the water systems of major cities.

This B-thriller is a nice variation on the "Body Snatcher" themes of paranoia and dark conspiracy, with the folksy small-towners unmasked as cold-blooded Communists. Here, it turns out that the fish virus was deliberately set loose in the lake by Waldis in order to empty the town and give him free rein. The doctor, like a handful of others, is apparently helping them because he sees no other way out. A grocer who helps Reid get a message out to his newspaper when it becomes clear that Waldis and Burr want to keep him prisoner gets killed, and the climax has Reid and Balenda in mortal danger, though with the Feds alerted, we know nothing too bad will happen to them. [TCM]

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